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.
In 2009, UNICEF defined child poverty as one of the most acute manifestations of human poverty. It is today one of the most critical problems in Armenia, as it negatively affects children throughout their lives.
The Fund for Armenian Relief is about to launch a new social project channelled toward the reduction of child poverty rates in Armenia thanks to the commitment and willingness of the Ajemian Foundation and FAR’s outstanding benefactor Peter Sarkessian of Detroit, MI. The program envisions targeted assistance to children and their families who face financial hardship and are exposed to various risks.
Through this project, FAR will identify families with children who are living in poverty, and provide them with adequate nutrition and small grants to develop a sustainable living, among other forms of economic support, as well as ensure access to healthcare services, psychological assistance, education, and other basic needs.
The program is a five-year intervention targeted towards struggling families with three or more children in the towns of Masis and Artashat in the Republic of Armenia’s Ararat marz. Within the proposed five-year period, FAR and its Children’s Center envision serving an average of 130 families with three or more children (400+ children).
To identify the socially disadvantaged families, FAR will contact the local social services to obtain data and select those families who:
have a minimum of 3 children aged 0-18,
are rated as poor according to the Republic of Armenia’s Family Poverty Benefit System,
and are willing to cooperate with FAR and its Children’s Center to overcome the crisis situation.
The goal of this new program is to empower Armenian families to sustain themselves and lead better lives.
Photos contributed by the Rotary Club “Yerevan International”
Beneficiaries of the Children’s Support Center are often directed there as victims of domestic violence and trafficking, children with behavioral problems, teenagers in trouble with the law and runaway youth who are tracked down by the police. Statistics show that children from single-parent households and of underprivileged parents are more likely to run away and become involved in dangerous activities. Many children come to the center with health problems, and nearly all of them are psychologically depressed.
Children’s relationships with their parents often get strained at the stage of adolescence, to a critical point, as a result of which many of them run away from home. This happens especially in cases of drastic deterioration of life circumstances. Many children remember growing up in a happy family with both mother and father, but the reality they face is a result of the quarrels between and the eventual divorce of their parents. Busy contending for their parental rights in continuous trials, the former couple often disregards the children’s opinions and well-being.
Such tribulations hinder youngsters from opening up about their troubles. Only some of them may tell their stories, but for others, it takes long months – even years – to somehow reveal their problems. Once at the Children’s Center, many remain silent during their first meeting with the specialists. In fact, they stay protective of their personal space for a long time after being welcomed to the Center. Even in their scarce communication within this new environment, they often look at their elder siblings as if asking for permission to speak out.
It is vital that these children stop considering themselves inadequate. The Center works to alter beneficiaries’ perception of their lives as toys scattered on the floor by uncaring parents and adverse life circumstances. Here, children receive special individualized care from professionally trained staff of social workers, psychologists, and nurses work to return them to a safe family environment and avoid the methodical institutionalization that so many troubled children in Armenia face.
The Children’s Support Center, established in 1999 by the Fund for Armenian Relief, has since pursued its distinct mission as a full-service facility for at-risk children and their families. It is unique in working with both the children and their families to counsel, educate, and support them every step of the way with the goal of securing a stable and loving home for beneficiaries. In the process, the Center serves as a safe welcoming hearth for vulnerable children to lift them up from despair and to guide them to a better future.
FAR Children’s Center supporter Lynn Barsamian and her children Emily, Peter and David recently honored the facility with a visit to learn more about its services.
The Center’s children and the staff warmly welcomed the guests. Executive Director Dr. Mira Antonyan gave Mrs. Barsamian and her children a tour, which helped to familiarize them with the children’s stories. She also spoke in depth about the role the FAR Children’s Center has played in their lives. The Barsamians also saw a presentation and a film about the Center’s beneficiaries, which was followed by a lively discussion.
Executive Director Dr. Mira Antonyan (left) with supporter Lynn Barsamian and her children during their recent visit to the FAR Children’s Center.
Last week, the FAR Children’s Center celebrated Vardavar, one of the most beloved holidays for Armenians. Vardavar is a unique water festival, which dates back to Pagan times and is associated with Astghik, the goddess of water, love and fertility. During this holiday many rules of social etiquette are thrown out; people are expected to drench their relatives, friends and even strangers with water. During Vardavar it is said that a blessing comes with every drop of water that’s poured on another person.
On this special holiday Yerevan Djur, a company that manages the city’s water supply, invited all 35 children currently staying at the Children’s Center to visit the Water Stock of Yerevan, located in Arzni. Yerevan Djur is a member of the Center’s Circle of Friends supporters group. The children enjoyed a tour around the facility and they also learned about the process of supplying water to the population.
Despite the rainy weather that day the children poured water on each other, as it is tradition. They also played various games and socialized with famous actors, who are also members of the Circle of Friends and who had decided to celebrate Vardavar with the children.
Beneficiaries of the FAR Children’s Center celebrated Vardavar during their visit to the Water Stock of Yerevan.
Everyone at the FAR Children’s Center is deeply saddened by the death of one of our beneficiaries – the very sweet, talented and much beloved Meruzhan* who passed away last month from cancer. Meruzhan was just seven years old. Center staff had been assisting Meruzhan by accompanying him and his family on hospital visits, and by providing therapy and donations of food and clothing.
“I imagine there is no pain greater than losing a child. My heart and prayers go out to little Meruzhan’s family at this most difficult time. We very much hope that he’s with the angels now,” said Center Director Dr. Mira Antonyan.
*Meruzhan’s last name has been withheld for privacy reasons.
Meruzhan, a seven-year-old beneficiary of the FAR Children’s Center, passed away from cancer last month.
Meruzhan often painted and drew as a way of coping with his illness and hospitalization.