[BCPP]: With Assistance, a Brighter Future

  • February 5, 2016 9:04 am

The Mardanyans have never stopped wishing and waiting for a light at the end of the tunnel. The family shares a two-room house in the village of Paravaqar, very close to the Azeri border where cross-border gunfire is an everyday concern.

The three children Aren, 7, Rafael, 5, and Hayk, 4, have already been faced with more than their fair share of hardships. Having grown up in extreme poverty, they are used to sub-par housing conditions as all three used to share the same bed. The boys are painfully shy and lack the skills and outlets to socialize with others, such as through extracurricular activities.

Their mother, 28-year-old Haykuhi Papoyan, started crying when she first talked to social workers from the Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) during their first meeting three years ago. She shared her shame and pain in not being able to arrange medical treatment for Aren who was suffering from kidney dysfunction. The children’s father Armen Madanyan, 33, didn’t say a word during the meeting, his eyes red with dust from helping his neighbors in construction, his face hopeless and desperate. He still works as a seasonal day laborer who struggles to support the family on his wages.

Their only other consistent income now is the state poverty stipend, which totals less than $100 a month. BCPP support was crucial and it has been effective. The family managed to improve their housing conditions and purchase beds for the children during the first and second years of the program with help from cash assistance provided through the program`s family stabilization component. The more recent purchase of a cow and heifer helps them to have a variety of milk, butter and cheese everyday. Plus, Haykuhi also manages to sell some of her homemade dairy products for a little extra income.

BCPP also helped the Mardanyans to solve Aren’s health issues with access to medical treatment. He was previously inactive but now that he is healthier he can participate in more school activities.

The Mardanyan parents have also benefited from BCPP’s various capacity building and community mobilization trainings on such topics like innovative parenting methods and styles. And now, although life is far from ideal, the program has helped the family to recover and move farther away from their desperate situation. BCPP has also elevated their energy so they may continue to push back against hardship.

“We are thankful for the support we received these three years. The support from FAR has allowed us to deal much more easily with our difficulties. The future for us and for our three boys now seems brighter than before,” said Haykuhi.

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[ANSEF]: Strengthening Armenia’s Science through its Young Scientists

  • February 3, 2016 11:02 am

Thirty-two groups of scientists have been chosen as this year’s winners of the Armenian National Science and Education Fund (ANSEF). Each of these groups will receive a $5,000 grant to support further development of their research in biology, physics, chemistry, biotechnology or astronomy, among other areas.

“Over the years, ANSEF has found its own place among the organizations that support the development of science in Armenia, which is very encouraging,” said Edik Karapetyan, FAR`s Education and Science Programs Coordinator at the opening of the January 27th awards ceremony.

He congratulated all 107 scientists who make up these 32 groups. Armenian National Academy of Science President Radik Martisoryan then thanked the ANSEF Research Council for its honest and unbiased work, while emphasizing its importance and the value of these grants for today`s scientists, and young scientists in particular.

The council received 244 applications this year. In recent years ANSEF has put a special emphasis on supporting young scientists. Also, as a continuation of the partnership between FAR, the Youth Foundation Armenia and the Young Scientists Support Program five out of the 30 grants were specifically allocated to groups of young scientists under the age of 35. ANSEF`s Research Council received 244 applications this year. Eighteen of the principal investigators are under the age of 35, and 13 of them are women.

“ANSEF grants are very flexible, which allows scientists to achieve maximum results,” said six-time ANSEF awardee Areg Miqayelyan, co-chair of the Armenian Astronomical Society and a leading scientist at Armenia’s Byurakan Observatory.

“The 2016 winners are all outstanding and deserve praise. It is inspiring that 18 of them are young scientists which is a remarkable,” said ANSEF Chairman and Cornell Astrophysicist Dr. Yervant Terzian. “We warmly congratulate all the winners and wish them the very best success in their research.”

For the past 16 years, ANSEF has supported nearly 404 scientific research groups and 1,545 individual scientists through a total contribution of more than $2 million.

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[CASP]: A Sliver of Hope

  • February 1, 2016 9:05 am

Day by day and month by month, poverty has eroded the Ghazaryan family’s hope. Fifty-year-old Galya Ghazaryan had eight children, four boys and four girls, until her daughter Inga died a few years ago in a car accident at the age of 19, shortly after getting married. Inga’s two children now live in Russia with their father and rarely visit their grandmother.

Galya’s husband Suren died in 2012 due to cardiovascular problems at the age of 53. And while her other daughter Anna, 25, is married and has three children of her own, she lives far from home. The other six children live with Galya in Armenia’s Syunik Province, where they share the one remaining room of her two-story house, which caught fire and burned down 10 years ago. The windows of the room are covered with plastic instead of glass and their three cupboards used for storing clothing and kitchenware. The two youngest girls, 13-year-old Oksana and 12-year-old Milena, along with Galya take the three beds. Ashot, 26, Andranik, 23, Armen, 20, and Allen, 16, sleep on the floor.

The boys, who are all out of work, primarily survive on temporary day jobs when they can get them. Due to the absence of any specialized education or vocational training in the area, they have few opportunities to learn new skills. As a result, the family’s primary income comes from their father’s death and poverty pension, which is not enough to cover their living expenses.

Last year the youngest Ghazaryan girls became beneficiaries of the Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP), through which they each receive annual stipends, which are designed to bring relief to orphans or children being raised in low-income, single parent households. Each of the girls has her dream. Milena wants to become a hairdresser, and Oksana a singer. They lead in gym class and often take part in competitions.

“This is a very big help for us,” says Galya. “My daughters are studying at a boarding school. I had to borrow clothes from the school and they agreed to let me pay for them later. With our CASP stipends, I can finally afford to pay them. I can also buy pipes for the stove so we can heat our house as it is too cold in here right now. We were very happy to learn about this support. It is like God heard my voice and answered my prayers.”

While the Ghazaryans are still confronted daily with the home repairs they cannot complete, and their lack of adequate clothing and sufficient food, FAR’s help is providing a sliver of hope for this family who, for the longest time, had none.

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[BCPP]: Virtual Acquaintances in the Diaspora Support FAR Beneficiaries

  • January 29, 2016 8:32 am

A few months ago when Ani Papyan, a social worker at FAR’s Berd office, was contacted via Facebook by Russian-Armenian youth eager to learn more about her job and how she supports people, she couldn’t have imagined the contact leading to much more than the exchange of a few messages.

But Ani’s enthusiasm for her work, and her tales of the progress made by the families with whom she serves through FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) initiative proved infectious. After hearing her stories, the young Armenians from Moscow’s Armenian Youth Association also wanted to help vulnerable families living in the border villages of Tavush Province.

“I discussed the idea with FAR’s BCPP staff,” said Ani. “We went through our list of families we support through the program’s social services component and selected those who are most vulnerable. I then shared the information about them with my new virtual friends and they gathered the money to support some of these families to overcome some of their specific difficulties.”

Thanks to the collaboration, six families from Nerkin Karmiraghbyur, Chinari, Movses and Paravaqar villages received assistance. “Lack of food was the highest priority for almost all of the families,” Ani said. “We brought meat, dairy products, vegetables, flour, oil, sugar, sweets and candy to them. We also brought medicine to one family in Chinari since they are unable to buy it on regular basis for their 3-year-old boy Eric who has spinal issues. Finally, we supported another family in Movses Village by buying feed for their cow.”

Money also enabled two of the families to construct a roof for their houses and install gas heat in their homes.

“I am deeply grateful to all of these supporters,” said Ani. “This partnership is an excellent example of how we at FAR‘s Berd Office invest our time and resources, and how a group of young diasporan Armenians did one of the most important things they could ever choose to do. This inspires me to strive for even more for these families.”

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[FAR Scholarships]: If We Believe in Our Strength, Tavush Will Prosper

  • January 27, 2016 9:50 am

Recently, an important breakthrough happened in Nane Petrosyan’s life when she entered Yerevan State University’s Journalism School. FAR has been a supporter of Nane’s successes since her childhood, when she was a CASP beneficiary and an attendee of Siranush Summer Camp. Now, she has been awarded FAR’s Mardigian Foundation Scholarship so she can afford Yerevan State University – YSU’s tuition.

Growing up in the border village of Verin Tsaghkavan in Tavush Province, Nane always kept excellent grades at school. She was endlessly interested in the history of different cultures and countries and she loved to write poems, many of which were published in the school newsletter and often read aloud in the Young Philologists Club.

“Many years ago when we visited Nane’s home she was very happy to show us her notebook filled with her poems. She read us a paragraph. I still remember it: ‘I feel pride when I look at Ararat. That majestic mountain doesn’t belong to anyone,’” recalled FAR’s Education and Science Programs Manager Edik Karapetyan. Edik’s department conducts home visits to each of FAR’s scholarships applicants as part of the application process.

When asked why she decided upon journalism Nane said, “I want to become a journalist so I can create the opportunity to deeply study poverty and use my work to influence leaders to work toward solutions. I feel pity for those who live in poverty and struggle greatly to earn a living. And there are many such families in Tavush Province.

In my native village of Verin Tsaghkavan many people suffer hardships. Some, without trying to overcome the difficulties, have left for Russia. Others moved to Yerevan where finding a job is easier than in Tavush.”

Nane is also no stranger to such difficulties herself. Her father died when she was 5, leaving her family alone without any support. Today, the only financial support the family receives is through their state poverty allowance. Her mother Karine supplements the family’s income by working the land of her neighbors when she can. And while the family doesn’t own any land of their own Karine cultivates a small garden plot near their house where she grows vegetables to sell. What she earns is still usually not enough to cover everyday living costs.

“It’s very difficult but we try to get by,” Karine said. “I don’t know what I would do without FAR, especially now that my two children are university students. My family is part of the Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP), which is a great help to me. I know that the program benefactors, the Mardigian family do a lot for our region. They have kind and caring hearts. My family is one of hundreds that they support.”

Nane is one of the lucky students who was awarded a Mardigian Scholarship since her family is supported through BCPP. She has been given the opportunity to pursue her dream career at one of Armenia’s leading universities. “I know that nothing comes easy but I am not afraid of difficulties,” she said. “After graduating from YSU I will return to my village. I will do it in order to help my mother, to ease the burden, and to try to find ways to better our lives in our home. I know that no one but us will be able to solve our own problems and if we believe in our strength Tavush will eventually prosper.”

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[BCPP]: Fighting with the Stroke of a Brush

  • January 25, 2016 11:15 am

Siramarg Aydinyan teaches the children of Aygepar and Movses villages in the Tavush Region both the beauty and the secrets of arts and crafts. “They should learn how beautiful the life around them is in their early years so they can learn how to carry on that beauty throughout their lives,” said Siramarg. “That would be their pathway out of poverty.”

Ignoring the constant background sound of cross-border gunfire and shelling that plague these villages Siramarg, a teacher fully devoted to her work, makes every effort to reach the Armenia-Azerbaijan border to be with her students. She leads one of the extracurricular hobby groups that FAR organizes in Berd City and its surrounding villages through its Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP).

Born in the village of Navur in Tavush, Siramarg graduated from Yerevan State College of Fine Arts in 1987. She then returned to her native village to work in the Tavush Region’s local schools as an art teacher. She has been there ever since. The children, she says, inspire her and give her strength. “When I see children suffering from hardship because of an unofficial war in the region, my heart hurts. Full of difficulties, their childhood then goes unfulfilled. I want to fill their lives with color and hope.”

Siramarg lives in Berd City and she takes risks to travel the 20 kilometers to Movses and Aygepar to see her students. Often she has to walk at least part of the way; sometimes she waits for hours on the side of the road to hitch a ride from a passing car.

Siramarg’s love and care for her students is evident and she rarely talks about her own hardships. After her husband’s death in 1998, she was left alone to raise her two children. As she says, FAR was her biggest supporter and best friend during this most difficult period of her life. During those years her son Tigran became a beneficiary of FAR’s Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP), through which he received much-needed financial support until he turned 18. Tigran currently serves in the Armenian Army in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Siramarg’s daughter Liana successfully competed for and won a FAR scholarship and graduated from Yerevan State Pedagogical University. Liana is now working as an Armenian language teacher in Berd.
There are still difficulties in Siramarg’s life, which she continues to work through. Her job helps greatly with that, she said. “First of all, I have to work to support my children. Besides, I love my job and I love being with children. I feel like it is my duty; Our soldiers fight on the border, and I fight with my paint brush. I try to take children out of their everyday lives that are filled with danger through painting. As an interesting activity it helps them to process and overcome the psychological stress they may carry from hearing the constant sounds of cross-border skirmishes.”

More than 50 children attend her painting classes on a regular basis. Siramarg is especially proud of the five exhibitions of the kids’ work, which were held over the past year, including one in Berd City. The best works now decorate the corridors and art classrooms of local community schools. The interest among the younger generation in the region toward the arts continues to grow so rapidly day by day that there is now a waiting list to join Siramarg’s classes.

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[Science and Education]: Supporting Scientific Learning Opportunities for Youth

  • January 22, 2016 8:23 am

FAR’s longtime cooperation with Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO) in Kotayq Province has always been a great one. Since we at FAR are always happy to support BAO, it was great to be able to co-fund the second annual Byurakan Science Camp, which was held last fall for 30 young, talented boys and girls, ages 12-15, from Armenia and the diaspora.

The five-day camp was organized in cooperation with the Armenian Astronomical Society (ArAS) and the Ministry of Education and Science at BAO. Young participants met with well-known astronomers, engaged in interactive lectures and discussions on astronomy, intellectual games, and they observed the stars at night. They also went on excursions to the museum of renowned astrologist and founder of BAO Viktor Hambardzumyan, and took a trip to to see Armenia’s largest telescope.

“The science camp was a real success. We received many words of gratitude from the school’s directors, parents and campers. Most of the campers admired the mysteries of the universe and expressed their desire to choose astronomy as their future profession. Campers were also willing to help organize future science camps and act as volunteers,” said Areg Mickaelyan, leading research associate and head of the research group at BAO responsible for the camp.

FAR hopes more science camps will be organized at BAO in the future and we wish them a successful 2016. Take a look at the camp photos below.

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