As FAR’s BCPP (Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program*) expands the number of its hobby groups in the border villages of Tavush Province students are already starting to show great results. The painting hobby class of Aygepar Village, for example, had been operating for just three months before its students held their first exhibition in May.
The group is really popular as nearly all of Aygepar’s students attend. Many impressed their parents with creations; Some were even amazed by the artistic talents of their own children.
Principal Arev Arzumanyan was also very satisfied with the work of her students. “It is thanks to the diligence and commitment of the group’s supervisor and teacher Siramarg Antonyan that this group has become so great. It’s such an opportunity for the children of our village. We have never been able to have painting class here at the school. And most kids are unable to financially or logistically attend classes at the art school in Berd City so the kids of our border village are really enjoying their workshops, so much that they never miss a class,” she said.
Mary Avagyan and her friend Mane Antonyan are two such students. “I am presenting several paintings for the exhibition. Art is a new and inspiring world to me. I hope to continue to paint, and maybe even make it my profession,” said Mary during the event.
The group’s teacher and supervisor Siramarg Aydinyan is very proud of her students, and impressed by their diligence and goal orientation. “These kids are very talented and they have a great potential. Who knows, one of them may turn out to be next Martiros Saryan or Pablo Picasso,” she said.
*“Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Developing Thriving Communities” was founded by the Mardigian Family Foundation through the largest-ever contribution made to FAR.
Celebrations in honor of International Children’s Day started at the FAR Children’s Center where the Ayo! team joined Center staff and the Circle of Friends supporters group for a chalk drawing competition. Afterwards the kids sang and danced, opened presents and ate ice cream and cake. At the end of the day kids participated in group fairytale therapy led by visiting child psychologist Rajni Avagyan, who used storytelling in an interactive way that enabled the children to touch upon the struggles they are facing and also learning about ways to cope.
In Tavush, where FAR implements the Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP), festivities were also in full swing. Organized by the Berd municipality, various NGOs and foundations, kids from the villages of Chinari, Movses, Paravaqar, Aygepar, Chinchin and Tavush involved in various hobby groups presented some of their knitting and paintings. Others took part in a chalk drawing competition where 50 winners received FAR certificates, writing supplies and sweets.
Another 50 kids from Gavar Orphanage along with 24 children who frequent the Nor Hajn Soup Kitchen, participated in the celebration held at Dalma Mall in Yerevan where they watched animated films, played games and enjoyed some sweets.
Later in the week, Circle of Friends members visited Berd City and its surrounding villages in Tavush to visit with BCPP’s child beneficiaries. Circle President Bella Kocharyan; TV anchors Nazeni Hovhannisyan, Hrachuhi Utmazyan and Egor Glumov; singers Sofi Mkheyan, Arsen Grigoryan (Mro), Davit Amalyan and Ruben Sasuntsi; all met with families and young people in Berd, Chinchin and Chinari.
Beneficiaries were delighted with the warm atmosphere, and the opportunity to meet with Circle of Friends’ representatives to talk about youth activities, patriotism and cultural life in the border region. At the end of the day everyone enjoyed a concert at Berd City Cultural Hall.
GTech* Executive Director Amalya Yeghoyan recently took another trip to the U.S. to expand business connections for GTech Solutions, the Center’s software development firm. While in L.A. she also found time to speak with Asbarez’s Elise Kalfayan who met with Amalya, where the two talked about GTech’s plans to help strengthen Gyumri and increase its presence in Glendale, Gyumri’s newly named sister city.
Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) wishes to recognize the achievements of the Vice Chair of its Board of Directors Annette Choolfaian, who our organization has had the privilege to work with since its inception. Ms. Choolfaian recently retired after a 50-year illustrious career through which she has worked to improve the healthcare, both at home and abroad. She has spent the past two decades as Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at New York Medical College (NYMC). As a testament to her role as a transformative and innovative force in the field of public health, NYMC’s board of trustees recently bestowed upon her the honor of professor emeritus.
Further, in order to create a more fitting legacy for Ms. Choolfaian, NYMC has also created the Professor Annette Choolfaian RN, MPA, Endowed Scholarship, which will be awarded to a student from the School of Health Sciences and Practice who demonstrates financial need as well as academic excellence.
As someone who has always had the constant drive to be a helping force for those in need, Ms. Choolfaian’s dynamic career has specifically focused on further development and improved management of health care delivery systems, particularly for the underserved. This drive is also evident in many facets of her life. As Vice President of FAR’s Board of Directors, Ms. Choolfaian has been instrumental in developing the organization’s health and social service programs in Armenia. She helped to create and has subsequently supported the FAR Children’s Center in Yerevan, which opened in 2000 and remains the only institution in Armenia where at-risk and vulnerable children can access shelter, healthcare, psychological counseling and legal assistance.
“Annette is one of the most inspiring, driven people I have ever met and I admire her greatly. We at FAR have had the privilege to work closely with her, which has enabled us to benefit from her knowledge and expertise so our programs can better improve public health for Armenians,” said FAR Board Chairman Randy Sapah-Gulian. “When I heard the news of this new scholarship, I could think of no one more suitable for such an honor.”
Ms. Choolfaian’s work in Armenia also includes helping to create fellowship programs for senior members of Armenia’s Ministry of Health and leading Armenian health care professionals to expand their knowledge of healthcare delivery, financing and management. In addition, she is part of the International Advisory Committee for Yerevan State Medical University, and being an advisor to The Armenia Fund’s primary care clinic in Nagorno-Karabakh, and several USAID projects throughout Armenia.
These are all fitting pursuits for a woman who has dedicated her life and career to improved access to healthcare. With the understanding that poverty, disparity, access barriers and fragmented delivery interfere with the system, she has remained steadfast in her quest to make a positive difference, and her belief that all healthcare professionals can do the same to help improve the system.
Ms. Choolfaian started her career in nursing, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become the Assistant Director of Nursing at Montefiore Hospital after receiving her bachelor’s degree. With the desire to make a broader impact by creating change at the policy level, she moved to Long Island Jewish-Hillside Medical Center, where she became the Associate Administrator of Community and Ambulatory Services and was later appointed as Assistant Vice President for Health Care Programs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Greater New York.
Between 1980 and 1990, as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ms. Choolfaian helped to resurrect St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center after bankruptcy through improvements made to ambulatory care services, its teaching program and the establishment of the first patient care program for AIDS patients. In 1991, she became a consultant for NYMC’s Department of Health Policy and Management where she built up a small program of 40 students and a limited curriculum to where it is today. The Department now boasts robust degree programs, with 150 students, esteemed full-time and adjunct faculty members, and doctoral, M.P.H. and certification programs in emergency preparedness and global health.
Ms. Choolfaian has also served on a variety of committees and associations, including the Association of Schools of Public Health, the Council on Public Health Education, the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Health Care Association of New York State, among others. She has also been an advisor to the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic, where she assisted in the development of medical services and medical education reorganization. Her awards include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; the AAHPO award for Distinguished Achievements in Public Health; the Fellowship in the New York Academy of Medicine; and Teacher of the Year for New York Medical College School of Public Health, among others. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from New York University, and bachelor’s degree from the College of Nursing University of Bridgeport.
As a tribute to her legacy, NYMC is now working to raise $100,000 in commitments for the coming year in order to launch the scholarship program. Gifts will go entirely toward funding the scholarship.
Two years ago FAR’s Continuing Medical Education Program launched its special training series focused on intensive pediatric care at Muratsan University Hospital in Yerevan. It was made possible thanks to the generosity of the chair of FAR’s Board of Directors Randy Sapah-Gulian and the Sapah-Gulian Foundation. The course gave doctors and nurses the opportunity to learn more about intensive pediatric care from leading U.S. pediatricians and critical care specialists.
Part of FAR’s long-term goal for the Pediatric Fundamentals of Critical Care Support (PFCCS) program following its launch in 2013, was to empower participants to build intensive care capacity and ultimately be able to train other Armenian healthcare professionals.
Six physicians who graduated with excellence showed great promise to eventually become trainers in this critically important healthcare sector. Their promise was realized this summer when they taught the very same course under the mentorship of the same team of U.S. doctors who traveled to Armenia for second round of trainings, all thanks to the sponsorship of Sapah-Gulian Foundation.
“It is very important to pass such knowledge to the regional specialists. Originally our goal was to make PFCCS training in Armenia sustainable by preparing a team of doctor-trainers who could organize the course on their own. This is our second time in Yerevan. Specialists that we trained two years ago now have partnered with us to conduct the course together,” said U.S. team leader Dr. Edward Seferian of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who added, “The main purpose of the most recent training, which was held at Arabkir Medical Center in Yerevan, was to transfer the know-how of the best practices in U.S. hospitals for providing correct medical care to children with severe injuries.”
Dr. Mohan Mysore, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine and one of the designers of the 2013 PFCCS course, was also very satisfied with the results of the training at Arabkir Center. “It went very well. Local faculty members were very engaged. They did their homework and worked very hard. The courses of this round helped them organize their thinking and prioritize their interventions. They interacted very well with participants and I am very pleased because now I feel PFCCS is in good hands here in Armenia with the local faculty; they can now use the practical skills learned at the courses in a systematic and consistent way,” he said.
“This is our second trip, and I hope it is just the beginning of an ongoing and long-term relationship. It was very rewarding to give back to Armenia, and it will definitely continue,” said Ed Seferian
Local trainer Ashot Gyulbudaghyan, head of the Intensive Care Unit at Arabkir Medical Center, also was very satisfied with the training, calling it a success. “Specialists from various regions of Armenia also received very important knowledge that they will use locally. After all, the whole process aims at ensuring the best treatment for the children throughout the country. Most importantly, we are now certified to conduct the PFCCS course on our own, I think this is major achievement for the healthcare of Armenia,” he added.
FAR Health Programs Manager Hambardzum Simonyan said FAR had reached its goal of developing a staff of local and professional trainers in intensive pediatric care. “We try to be a resource to local healthcare professionals by not only providing opportunity to advance their knowledge and skills but to also pass on what they learn to their colleagues across Armenia. With this important training, we are one step ahead in our overall goals,” he said.
As the supporter of this program, Mr. Sapah-Gulian agreed. “It is evident that continuing medical education opportunities, which provide greater access to learning about the latest knowledge, skills and methods in the field, are sure to eventually translate into a higher quality of healthcare that physicians will provide to their patients,” he said.
“This is our second trip, and I hope it is just the beginning of an ongoing and long-term relationship. It was very rewarding to give back to Armenia, and it will definitely continue,” said Ed Seferian.
The course was led by pediatricians and critical care specialists Dr. Edward G. Seferian from UCLA, MD, MS, FAAP (Department of Pediatrics at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center); Dr. Mohan Mysore, MD, FAAP, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine; Dr. Mudit Mathur, MD from the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital; Dr. Yves Oullette, M.D., Ph.D. from the Mayo Clinic; and Dr. Ndidiamaka Musa, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington (Seattle Children’s Hospital), Olubunmi Okanlami, MD, MBA, Pediatric Intensivist, Memorial Hospital, South Bend, IN.
Over the past two months, the front hall of FAR’s Yerevan office has begun to look like a library. Dozens of boxes of books, which had been gathered by FAR scholarship students for a book drive, began to pile up floor to ceiling.
The book drive was initiated by FAR’s Office Administrator Anna Grigoryan and is geared to benefit the Hrant Dink School in Istanbul, which offers education to children of Armenian immigrants. The local NGO Armenian Resource handled the delivery.
Students not only decided to enrich the school’s stacks with classical literature and great works of fiction, but they also did a great job of informing their classmates, students and friends about the initiative, who then later dropped by with their own contributions.
“Their commitment and consistent participation was encouraging. But most encouraging was to see that students who receive support themselves are also ready and happy to support schoolchildren in need,” said FAR Education and Science Program Manager Edik Karapetyan.
Baghsaryan Scholarship recipient Araks Arakelyan said she is always happy to be part of a book drive, especially when she knows the books will go to kids. “It was with great pleasure that I came by with these books. I believe that reading books will help these students to not forget their mother tongue, which is very important for the Armenians of Istanbul. I hope I was able to make a small contribution to this very important initiative,” she said.
Even after four years at State Engineering University of Armenia Anahit Manukyan felt she needed additional training to become more marketable in her field. GTech was her solution. In 2011, she enrolled in the Mobile Development Department. She was even lucky enough to spend two months in Australia taking a training course at CountryNet Solutions IT Company. Upon her return to Armenia Anahit started working on her GTech diploma project, successfully defended it, and earned her Mobile Developer Certificate.
In May, Anahit together with GTech graduates Lusine Khachatryan, Anna Gabrielyan, Melanya Hovhannisyan, and current GTech students Samvel Pahlevanyan and Adam Madoyan, applied for a grant from the Enterprise Incubator Foundation to support the development of new solutions, product and service development in Gyumri. Their social networking project BooksPlus won and the team has since founded their own startup company in Gyumri called WeDoApps.
“My two years of study at GTech was one of the most rewarding periods of my life where I gained a lot of knowledge about my field of study. This was a life changing experience for me. I have had the opportunity to study in a challenging and ambitious environment. I even had a chance to experience working abroad but I’m happy to live and work in my native town and contribute to IT prosperity,” Anahit said.
In addition to the start up, Anahit is an iOS developer at Mobile Solutions in Gyumri. She also works remotely for CountryNet Solutions as a C++ and iOS developer, and teaches iOS technology at GTech.