[FAR Soup Kitchens]: Soup Kitchen Provides Relief for One Family’s Constant Struggle

  • May 22, 2015 10:30 am

Her family's income -- 105 USD per month -- is not enough to cover the expenses for Marta, her husband, and their children Gayane, Arsen and Amalya.

Tears spill from the eyes of 31-year-old Marta Ghazaryan while she sits with her three kids in FAR’s Nor Hajn Soup Kitchen. The difficulties she has dealt with since her childhood have not broken her. Still, when she talks about her life her eyes begin to water.

“I got married when I was 19 but marriage didn’t make me happier. I lost my mother very early in life and had been living with my grandmother and my uncle’s family. I needed to work hard on their farm in Ararat. They would make me. They would exploit me, never compensating me properly,” Marta says with a cold voice that thinly veils her pain.

After marriage she found herself living with her husband in poverty and her struggle continued. Located in Armenia’s Kotayq Province, Nor Hajn is a former industrial town that today has few jobs available to its more than 10,000 residents. She and her husband are among the town’s unemployed. They receive about $55 a month as part of their state subsidy, which covers their rent. The additional $50 her husband brings in each month from collecting and selling bottles is not enough to cover the living expenses for the couple and their children Gayane, Arsen and Amalya.

“My husband doesn’t allow me or kids to help him since he finds his job of collecting bottles hard and emotionally difficult,” Marta says. “People help us by giving us clothes. I take them for my kids, for me, and for my husband. It is embarrassing to say but this is the way I’ve lived all my life, in other peoples’ clothing,” she says as another stream of tears runs down her cheek.

Marta and her family have been Nor Hajn Soup Kitchen beneficiaries ever since FAR reopened the kitchen in 2014 after being closed for two years due to lack of funding. They rely on the soup kitchen for their main meal each day.

“My kids are not very demanding and they eat whatever is available. The soup kitchen is a great help for my family. My kids are not anymore hungry. There were days when I didn’t have money to buy something to eat,” she says.

“Sometimes it is unbearable. When one has only had struggle in their life with no foreseeable end to it, as it has been for me, it is not easy to maintain hope for the future. My dream is to have a small, one-room apartment and to see my kids happy and not want for anything. My hope is to be granted at least one of my dreams during my life.”

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[Economic Development]: Video Highlights FAR’s Work Helping Berd Women

  • May 20, 2015 10:00 am

About two years ago, FAR started a partnership with the Berd Women’s Resource Center Foundation as part of its Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program. FAR’s latest film highlights the impact this work has had on the women of Berd.

* BCPP is made possible by the Mardigian Family Foundation.

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[FAR Scholarships]: Book Discussion Gives FAR Scholarship Students a Sense of Resiliency and Hope

  • May 18, 2015 10:54 am

FAR Education and Science Programs Coordinator Eduard Karapetyan spoke of his impressions of the book.

By Lusine Hakobyan

The year 1915 is imprinted ominously on the hearts of Armenians and all others with a sense of humanity. The Armenian Genocide stands out as the most brutal and horrific crime perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire. Very few Armenians managed to escape the Turkish sword, and one of those fortunate few was Ester Ajemian. Decades later, her daughter Margaret Ajemian Ahnert wrote a book called The Knock at the Door about her mother’s memories of the years surrounding the deportations and the executions of the genocide victims.

FAR’s Yerevan office held a discussion on The Knock at the Door on April 16 between Ester Ajemian and some of FAR’s scholarships students. Starting with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of 1915, Education and Science Programs Manager Eduard Karapetyan spoke of his impressions of the book. “Margaret Ajemian wrote this book, which is published in six languages, without hate or revenge. She wrote her mother’s story in such a way that one can read it rapidly and with great interest. This work earned her the Best Book Award at the 2007 USA Book News Names and the 2007 Humanitarian Award from the United States, in addition to many others.”

The discussion was intense. Esther’s role as an Armenian woman, mother and faithful Christian both stunned and inspired everyone. The remarks each student made were unique. “Chapters are carved with great skill and their descriptions so vivid. The Knock at the Door can be a great topic for an impressive movie, which could broaden the book’s reach,” said Qnarik Baghdasaryan, who studies journalism at Yerevan State University with support from FAR’s Ester Ajemian Scholarship.

The book’s strong impact on each reader was evident in that it transformed a discussion that was initially a clash of opinions into an emotional and warm dialogue. Everyone noted how gently and skillfully Margaret Ajemian Ahnert has woven together her mother’s biographical descriptions and the events of 1915, including the deportation and fates of the victims, with the conversations between them.

It is a portrait of a woman who witnessed the pieces of the genocide – exile, famine, massacres and carnage – but retained her faith in humanity, which lays the book’s foundation. This woman who underwent all these horrors still managed to keep her ability to notice and appreciate beauty. As someone who witnessed assassinations, she still found joy in the beauty of a flower.

The Knock at the Door left a significant mark on the hearts of each of the students who came to the discussion. Life and death came face to face in this book and life won, which is shown in the lives of Armenians like Ester who survived and were able to start over, and the religion, language and culture that remain vibrant to this day.

Lusine Hakobyan is a master’s degree student at Yerevan State University’s Faculty of Journalism. She is a beneficiary of FAR’s Ester Ajemian Scholarship.

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[Ayo!]: Republic Square Photo Booth is an Ayo! Success

  • May 15, 2015 10:08 am

Visitors and locals alike filled the streets during the weeks surrounding the centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, making it one of the busiest times for Yerevan. FAR’s crowdfunding initiative Ayo! joined the activity by opening up a photo booth for the public in cooperation with Yerevan’s Photo Atelier Marashlian. The booth celebrated Armenian culture during the most important week of the year.

Starting April 20th, a small stage was installed in Republic Square where people could have their photos taken with Ayo!’s volunteer model Ellen, who dressed in traditional Armenian taraz. The background was a big picture of Ani, and there was an antique frame in the foreground to give the photos an old-timey feel.

From the very first day the booth was so popular that the Ayo! team barely managed to keep up with all the photo requests! Their little “present” to the public turned into a great time for everyone – including them.

“For us, it was also memorable to have such a huge amount of support from our group of teenage volunteers – Ellen, Arman, Karpis, Mariam, etc. – who helped us to organize the whole thing. And they liked it so much they want to volunteer for our future Ayo! projects, too,” writes Ayo! Community Director Helena Melkonyan on the Ayo! blog.

To read more, check out Ayo!’s blogpost or see the pictures for yourself here.

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[FAR Scholarships]: FAR Scholarship Students Join the Effort for Genocide Recognition

  • May 13, 2015 11:33 am

FAR Education and Scientific Programs Coordinator Eduard Karapetyan (second from left) marched with the students.

Millions across the world joined the quest for justice and recognition of the Armenian Genocide on April 24th. FAR’s scholarship students were no exception as they marched from Yerevan’s Sports and Entertainment Complex to the Genocide Memorial or Tsitsernakaberd to lay flowers around the eternal flame in memory of 1.5 million victims. More than 70 students supported by FAR’s Mathevosian, Gulamerian, Nishanian, Ajemian, Zambak, Berberian and Baghsarian scholarship programs, among others, joined the effort, which was led by FAR’s Education and Scientific Programs Coordinator Eduard Karapetyan.

Many students openly expressed their passion for joining this effort. “Genocide is a crime that has no potential for forgiveness and no date of expiration. Even after one hundred years justice should be restored and the criminals need to be punished,” Berberian Scholarship recipient Lusine Mkrtchyan said during the march.

“Today we honor the memory of these innocent victims and pay our respects, however it is not the end of our struggle but the beginning of one with renewed strength and greater consistency,” said Mathevosian Scholar Saribek Karapetyan.

“Today we are here to not only pay tribute but to transmit our struggle to future generations so that they, too, remember and demand,” said Lusine Armenakyan, a recipient of the Gulamerian Scholarship Program.

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[FAR Partnerships]: Life-Saving Charity UAF Helps Armenia with Access to Cancer Treatment Methods

  • May 11, 2015 10:15 am

For years, United Armenian Fund has partnered with FAR to support Armenia’s most vulnerable people. The following article, which recently appeared on med-practic.com’s website, highlights the critical importance of UAF’s mission. We’ve translated it into English for you.

More than 1,000 patients with cancer have the opportunity to reduce their treatment costs each year thanks to the high-quality antitumor drugs that United Armenian Fund (UAF) sends to Armenia. Those drugs are mainly used at the Ministry of Health’s National Oncology Center, which serves nearly 90 percent of all oncology patients in Armenia through either in-patient treatment or dispensary care.

Nelly Gasparyan, who is head of the pharmacy at the National Oncology Center, says this humanitarian program enables patients to reduce treatment costs by 50 to 100 percent. For example, one treatment session usually costs between 625 and 830 USD. With UAF’s assistance, the price can be reduced to 10 and 12 USD for the entire treatment.

In this context Gasparyan, who has worked for years in the field of oncology, stresses the importance of UAF’s program, especially when taking into account the current challenging economic situation in Armenia. “This is a great asset to the people and the country. Patients cannot buy the required medicine often because the new, high-quality drugs are either too expensive or unavailable in Armenia. And these gaps are filled by the UAF humanitarian program,” Gasparyan says.

The continuous help of UAF’s high-quality antitumor drugs allow for many cancer patients to achieve remission and improve their quality of life. All of the drugs that UAF sends are FDA approved, making it possible to avoid ineffective treatment that happens with the use of low-quality drugs.

Gasparyan speaks of Zofran as an example of one of the important components of UAF’s program and the cancer treatment program. “More than 1,300 patients at our center receive up to four cycles of chemotherapy every month. 8 MG of Zofran cost between 10 and 12 USD , we provide 40 MG for each therapeutic dose.”

Recalling some other drugs brought to Armenia by UAF in previous years, Gasparyan also mentions a drug called Temodar, which is specifically designated for the treatment of malignant brain tumors and costs about 830 USD per treatment session. Oksaliplatin, another extremely important and high-quality antitumor drug, costs 415 USD per 100 MG. “Years ago we were in China representing our achievements in the field of oncology. One Chinese doctor mentioned that we have such success thanks to the strong and supportive diaspora,” she said.

UAF also provides diabetic and hypertension treatment drugs regularly, as well as medicine and medical supplies for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, among others, as part of their goal to support Armenia and its tens of thousands of people in need.

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[Child Protection]: A Birthday Party with a Mission

  • May 8, 2015 9:54 am

Four-year-old Arayik never waits for his turn to speak. He doesn’t hesitate to introduce himself to the guests of the FAR Children’s Center, which is where he currently lives because his own family is too unstable. “Do you know who I am?” he always asks newcomers in a sweet, excited voice. “I am Arayik!”

It was with this same sweet voice that Arayik expressed his congratulations to Liana during her 10th birthday party at the Center. Liana lives in Yerevan with her two sisters and her mother and father, all of whom were determined to make her birthday party not only a happy one but also one with a greater meaning. A stable and comfortable family, they wanted to celebrate Liana’s birthday at the Center because it’s a place that aims to bring joy, among other things, to children who lack stable homes and familial support. Her parents saw Liana’s birthday party as a way to bring some fun to the children of the Center for the day while also raising awareness in their own children about the struggles of Armenian youth and the importance of providing support to this vulnerable population.

They succeeded at making the party a fun celebration not only for Liana, but also for her sisters and the children at the Center. Some of the Center’s children even told their social workers how important and appreciated they felt because of it.

When the birthday candles were lit and it was turn for speeches, Arayik was first volunteer. “I wish you to always be happy and that your mother will always be with you,” he said. The others’ wishes were not much different from his own as they all hoped that one day they could have what that Liana has – a kind and loving family.

“I want you to always smile,” Gagik said.

“I hope you don’t have a single bad day,” said Irina.

No matter how many difficulties hinder their ability to have a normal, happy childhood, the rehabilitation period that these children spend at the FAR Children’s Center indeed gives them more of a reason to be optimistic and exude kindness toward others.

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