Gohar Vardanyan is a first-year MA student in the Department of Political Science of the Yerevan State University’s Faculty of International Relations. She is also a second-year BA student of Law attending evening classes.
Gohar is able to keep up with such ambitious studies through the support of the Armine and Garabed Zambak Scholarship, which helps young Armenian become strong and dedicated future leaders in politics, international relations, and public administration. It also aims to develop the culture of philanthropy in Armenia by encouraging recipients to give back, though Gohar had been a volunteer long before she became a recipient of the Zambak Scholarship. To date, she has volunteered for a number of NGOs, including the Red Cross International, and is particularly interested in working with children.
Last summer, Gohar learned the basics of photography from Young Professionals Trip participant Alex Jahani at the FAR Children’s Center Media Lab. Now she is passing on her new skills to the beneficiaries of the Children’s Center during weekly photography classes.
Gohar is passionate about involving the kids in photography, which is both enjoyable and creative for them. Among the group of youngsters who participate in weekly trainings with her are two teenage boys: Karen and Levon. They don’t talk much, but they clearly appreciate doing something that deviates from the routine of their everyday lives. This week, for example, they explored the visuals at the Lovers’ Park in Yerevan, which is one of the different locations that Gohar chooses to photograph each week.
“I don’t like keeping good things to myself. If I know something well or I have a skill or experience, I am more than willing to pass those down the ladder for those who are learning,” says Gohar. She then recalls her unfinished leadership studies at the School for Young Leaders in Yerevan that she began in 2012 and never had the opportunity to complete. Perhaps what she does at the Children’s Center is a continuation of establishing personal leadership. Through every photography lesson, she leaves the footsteps of the leader that she once strove to become.
When asked why she decided to volunteer for FAR, Gohar simply answers, “It is important for me to take part in FAR’s benevolent work.” Her credo is to “try to be more kind-hearted,” which sounds like a gentle plea for more citizens to join the network of volunteering.
December 21st was a very special day for the beneficiaries of the FAR Children’s Center. The youngsters were visited a puppet, clown, and fairy tale characters who dazzled them with songs, dances, and stunts. The special guests from the Puppeteers Union had been invited by Children’s Center Circle of Friends Member Mr. Avetik Nazaretyan to make the children’s day unforgettable and dreamlike.
The boys and girls were delighted to participate in juggling matches and competitions. They were especially excited to become acquainted with several live animals, including a rabbit, monkey, snake, and a lizard.
Following the interactive performances, the children were surprised by Santa Claus who had come to meet the children and deliver gifts. His greetings and advice were a great inspiration for the young ones. The icing on top of the cake was quite literally the icing on top of a delicious cake presented by Agnes Cakes to brighten up the children’s holidays.
What might a simple visit mean to childish human minds that seek communication but struggle to fully express how much they really wish to communicate? They are exhilarated by a mere visit of a group of people who bring them gifts and the joy of an annual celebration that they always associate with the Dzmer Papik (The Armenian Santa Claus) – Christmas and New Year.
Such energy filled the room during the holiday celebration held at the Nubarashen #11 Special School this past December. The students had prepared a Christmas show that embodied the heroes of an Armenian fairy tale – all on their own. They performed songs and dances as a special act of gratitude for their kind benefactors and captivated audience members, among whom were delighted FAR staff members. Afterwards, they enjoyed a nutritious dinner and received the benefactors’ presents delivered by Dzmer Papik.
The event takes place every year thanks to the generous support of outstanding benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Marie Haratunian. The Haratunians have helped to renovate the facilities and provided the School with foodstuff and presents for the children on special occasions.
For its selflessly devoted staff, Nubarashen #11 Special School seems a lifelong vocation, a place of everyday input of energy and professional potential. It is only by the generosity of benefactors that this shelter, which operates with practically no state support, still consoles the hearts of the parents who come to see smiles on their children’s innocent faces.
Satenik Hovhannisyan is a 3rd year student of Armenian Philology at Yerevan State University and a Mathevosian Scholarship recipient. For the past 13 years, she has also been a freestyle dancer. Alongside developing her linguistic career through perseverant studies, Satenik enjoys sharing her passion for dance in a benevolent and valuable initiative at FAR’s Children’s Support Center.
She first proposed to organize dance classes for the children during a meeting with the Mathevosian Scholarship Program beneficiaries at FAR’s Yerevan office. Now, the classes take place twice a week – to the delight and happiness of the children.
Satenik’s classmate Ani Cherbechyan, who has also studies at a dance college, has gladly joined her for this wonderful initiative. Together, the young women involve the children in fun training sessions where they not only teach Armenian national dances and discipline, but also instill the values of self-confidence and teamwork.
“Besides the dancing practice itself, you feel there is something very positive that you can pass to those children,” Satenik points out.