[FAR Social Services]: Raising Support for Post-Conflict Syrian-Armenians

  • November 24, 2015 3:01 pm

The war in Syria rages on, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions. The Syrian-Armenians who were forced to flee their homes and who found shelter in Armenia are still in need of financial assistance, psychological support, and much more. FAR has had a small but important role in helping Syrian-Armenians rebuild their lives in Armenia, most recently helping nine determined students to be able to attend college.

Earlier this year, the Center for Coordination of Syrian-Armenian Issues, a local NGO, approached FAR for assistance. Students were chosen as beneficiaries of FAR`s Scholarship Programs based on their levels of need. FAR has agreed to cover 25% of their tuition fees, with the other 75% covered by the Armenian government, AGBU, and the Galouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Recently FAR’s Education and Science Programs Manager Edik Karapetyan met with the Syrian students originally from Aleppo, Raqqa and Kessab. In addition to announcing the good news about FAR`s support, he introduced them to FAR’s Education Program. Students also talked about the difficulties they face in Armenia. Most of their parents remain in Syria with few opportunities to leave anytime soon. Those whose parents are in Armenia are struggling to find work.

“We are thinking of all of the ways we can help them as much as possible,” said Edik, who remains in close contact with all Syrian-Armenian NGOs.

The Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organization (ACCO) approached FAR earlier this year for assistance. FAR worked with the United Armenia Fund who shipped 2,000 pairs of Tom’s to Armenia, which were distributed through the ACCO to some of the more than 10,000 displaced Syrians in Armenia.

Another great cooperation with ACCO was the inclusion of 20 Syrian-Armenian children into the FAR’s Aragats Camp Program past summer. For three weeks, refugee children participated in the camp’s sports, games, and various cultural and intellectual activities. They also had the chance to tell other children about their experiences of having to flee Syria, ultimately providing them a safe space to express their feelings, which also helped Armenian children to gain a greater understanding of their respective backgrounds.

“You gave an opportunity to the vulnerable Syrian-Armenian children registered in ACCO to attend Camp Aragats. They had an amazing and positive time there. It was an incredibly enriching place; children were able to experience a sense of community and belonging,” wrote Ani Balkhyan, Founder and President for ACCO, in a thank you letter to camp organizers and supporters.

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[FAR Health Programs]: Emergency Care Training Helps VOAH Nurses Strengthen their Practice

  • November 19, 2015 10:55 am

Amalya Davtyan, one of the nurses at FAR’s Vanadzor Old Age Home (VOAH), knows by heart the blood pressure results of each and every elderly resident she is responsible for. Every morning for the past eight years Amalya has checked their blood pressure before giving medicine to those who need it. She then carefully follows up with the condition of each patient throughout the day and overnight.

With 30 years of experience in the cardiology department of Child Rehabilitation State Center in Tbilisi, Georgia, Amalya is quick when it comes to making decisions. “Be it high blood pressure or a heart attack or whatever else, I quickly find a way to react either by giving medicine, recommending rest or immediately calling for additional medical assistance,” she said. “I fight to the end to see to it that any one of our elderly who has problems feels better. Only then will I feel better myself.” Throughout her time at VOAH Amalya has primarily dealt with those who have hypertension and heart illnesses.

To better handle their responsibilities, Amalya and the three other nurses at VOAH underwent emergency medical care trainings in Yerevan last summer. FAR`s Health Programs Department was responsible for organizing the two-week training, which was held in the emergency wing of Erebuni Medical Center.

“It was very interesting and useful – the speed, the doctors’ diagnoses, everything. The practice is very important for learning new things and we really gained so much during the time spent at Erebuni,” Amalya said.

Her job at VOAH is not an easy one. She has to find the best way to communicate with each beneficiary. “Some are easy to be hurt, some are easy to hurt you, so I need to be very gentle and polite, very lovely with everyone. That’s why I find myself exhausted at the end of the day,” she said. “Yet I love my job and I get great satisfaction from it. I try to do my best to help each and every resident.”

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[Health Programs]: Healthier Children, Healthier Futures

  • November 17, 2015 10:04 am

FAR’s Child Poverty Reduction Program has made it possible for eight children from Artashat City and its surrounding villages to receive necessary medical treatment, including surgery, at some of Yerevan’s leading hospitals.

These major achievements have been made possible through the help of Ms Arpine Hovnanian who has supported the addition of a healthcare component to the program, which started this year. Its main objective is to detect and resolve any health problems for children whose treatments do not qualify for state-funded medical assistance.

In cooperation with local physicians, FAR’s health team visited Artashat Medical Center in Ararat Province to meet with children who were treated through the program. Parents came to the meeting with letters in hand, thanking the program staff for making it possible for their children to receive correct diagnoses and treatments. One woman who was so happy that her grandson could walk again after his surgery even published a thank you letter in the local newspaper.

Some like 11-year-old Kristine Hambardzumyan now see a significant improvement in their quality of life. After suffering from intense headaches for the past few years, she was able to get an MRI and receive further treatment. For Gagik Avagyan, 16, surgery on severe varicose veins, which had impeded blood flow in his lower legs and caused one of his legs to atrophy, has enabled him to walk again. Ani Avagyan, also 16, was able to receive palliative surgery for her cerebal palsy, and Karlush Azatyan’s early diagnosis of Family Mediterranen Fever will help him to avoid kidney problems that could lead to disability.

“The results are incredible. When I saw the scans I was pleasantly surprised to realize it is possible to have such positive results,” said Dr. Varduhy Sargsyan, head of the Pediatric Department of Artashat Medical Center, during the meeting.

The new health component will also enable FAR to carryout an assessment on the overall health and nutritional levels of children in Ararat Province. The first stage includes a blood test to determine the rates of anemia within a group of 1,000 children between 6 months and six years in nine of the region`s communities.

“A 2005 demographic survey in Armenia showed that anemia is prevalent in more than 30 percent of children in the Ararat Region. As long as new nationwide survey is not made to determine the amount of hemoglobin in children we will try to identify the problem at the provincial level, at least,” said FAR Health Programs Manager Dr. Hambardzum Simonyan.

Identified cases of anemia will be treated in collaboration with local doctors, and medication costs will be covered by the program.

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[VOAH]: Renovated Road Eases Access to Vanadzor Old Age Home

  • November 16, 2015 9:07 am

FAR has another victory to celebrate. After nearly a year of fundraising efforts the road to Vanadzor Old Age Home (VOAH) is now totally reconstructed. The 50 beneficiaries of VOAH are extremely thankful to each and everyone who helped to improve the road, which had been causing difficulties for years.

Previously filled with potholes that slowed delivery trucks, and in the worst cases ambulances, the condition of the road was a longtime concern of VOAH supporter Sahan Arzruni who initiated a successful fundraising campaign last year for its rehabilitation. Fundraising efforts and reconstruction were overseen by Louisa Baghdasaryan, liaison to VOAH from the Women’s Guild Central Council of Eastern Diocese.

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[FAR Soup Kitchens]: FAR Soup Kitchen is this Family’s Most Vital Support

  • November 13, 2015 11:19 am

One might confuse 17-year-old Nina Ghulyan as a mother of three when she feeds her 1-year-old sister or either of her other two youngest siblings, at FAR’s soup kitchen in Byureghavan. Nina is the oldest of eight children and the primary caretaker of her two brothers and five sisters when her mother works as cleaner in nearby Abovyan, a post-industrial city with a high unemployment rate. Nina’s father remains in Russia where he went to find work but now has no means to return home.

Nina is her mother’s only help. She is responsible for everything, including cooking and feeding the others and washing the clothes, which she must do by hand. “The most difficult time is during the winter,” Nina said. “But don’t get me wrong, I am not tired of helping my mother. I feel happy to help her with the children.”

Still, in order to do so Nina quit school when she was 14 to stay at home. The family lives in two abandoned train cars and usually has difficulty finding enough money to buy bread. “I can cook well but we don`t always have anything to cook,” she said.

The weekdays are less stressful since she takes the kids to FAR’s Byureghavan Soup Kitchen where they can get at least one nutritious meal for the day. “I am happy when I see my mother happy,” she said. “I remember once my brother was ill and my mother was in the hospital with him for months. It was harder for us then and the thing I couldn’t stand was to see my mother cry. So now I do everything just to see her smile.”

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[FAR Economic Programs]: The Kind of Help That Strengthens a Family

  • November 11, 2015 10:57 am

The Poghosyan family starts life very early in the morning. During the summer Andranik, 44, usually arrives at the market at 3am to sell vegetables from the family`s garden.

“Today I was selling onions. It was okay. Selling vegetables is more to help with everyday expenses; our main income comes from animals,” said Andranik, who lives with his family in Marmarashen Village in Ararat Province.

The Poghosyans are beneficiaries of FAR’s Child Poverty Reduction Program, through which they receive aid that helps to stabilize their finances. “When we were allocated some money by the program we decided that it would be better to buy more animals. So we did. Now, we have two piglets and 60 chicks. They will really supplement our income this year if everything goes well,” he said.

Andranik’s wife Lilit, 30, is his main helper with the animals and the garden. The couple has three children, Diana, 12, Janna, 11, and Artur, 9.

“It was a great help over the last few months for us to have enough eggs to eat and also to sell. We can also use roosters for meat,” Lilit said. “It is hard to manage everything. I need to wake up very early to help with the garden, the animals, and most importantly, the kids.”

FAR`s Child Poverty Reduction Program currently supports 111 families who live in 10 different villages in the Masis and Artashat regions of Ararat. Families have many issues, including financial, social and psychological, and FAR’s mission is to help them overcome those problems through tailored interventions.

Large families in the Ararat Region are able to receive help from this program thanks to continuous support from the Ajemian Foundation and Peter Sarkesian of Michigan.

Anahit Tevanyan and Artur Miqayelyan, along with their three children also benefit from the project. They bought a calf and chickens with the aid they received. “Our calf will be full grown by next year and we will have milk and milk products to eat and sell, which will reduce our expenses,” said Anahit during a visit from FAR staff. She and her children, Levon, 17, Siranush, 15, and Meri, 12, are continually grateful to the donors who support them. It is especially helpful since what they will earn supplements the income Artur makes working as a mechanic in Yerevan.

“We just need some time and we will get through these difficulties thanks to your help,” said Anahit.

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[VOAH]: Wellness Initiative Brought to the Seniors of Vanadzor Old Age Home

  • November 9, 2015 10:42 am

Hroush Mehrabyan couldn`t remember the last time she`d had her thyroid checked. “I have not done such a thing for a very long time,” said the 58-year-old resident of Vanadzor Old Age Home (VOAH) as she prepared for a sonogram.

She was met with relief. “Everything is all right – normal. You don’t need to worry,” Dr. Irina Kirakosyan said to Hroush, the first patient of 50 she examined during her visit.

Conducted by physicians from the Armenian-American Wellness Center, the medical checkups were initiated by Lousia Baghdasaryan, the VOAH liaison from the Women’s Guild Central Council at the Eastern Diocese. Ms. Baghdasaryan even assisted the doctors with their exams; VOAH`s staff nurse Amalya Davtyan also helped to facilitate the visit.

All residents were able to have their blood pressure checked in addition to their thyroid sonograms. Female residents were also able to get mammograms. While no signs of cancer were detected in any VOAH residents many were found to have issues with their thyroid glands, which cause them to have health problems. Following the exams Ms. Davtyan worked with the Wellness Center`s staff to come up with treatment plans for everyone with health issues.

“This was an amazing mission conducted by amazing people and good professionals,” said VOAH Director Manushak Ohanyan. “I can hardly find the right words to thank them enough on behalf of the patrons of VOAH. I have heard a lot about the work the Wellness Center does for the people of Armenia and I now have been able to personally witness their mission. Bless their hearts, and bless the people in the U.S. who sponsor this noble and critically important program for the Armenian people.”

VOAH is a FAR project that has been sponsored by the Kevork and Sirvart Karamanuk Foundation for about 20 years. This particular initiative was made possible by the generous support of the Armenian-American Wellness Center which was founded by prominent Armenian-American philanthropist Mrs. Rita Balian.

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