Archive for July, 2009

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[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia] : Armenian Hospitality

July 30, 2009

On a recent Saturday evening, I fled the sizzling heat of Yerevan for the countryside near Aparan.  I had decided to go camping near the river with some Armenian, Iranian and French friends.

The surrounding scenery was heavenly: vibrant flowers covering the fields and beehives clinging to the hills.  Just as we were packing our things to go back to the city, two men arrived by car, inviting us to a meal and a game of chess.

Since we all had to be in Yerevan by evening, we tried to decline their invitation to travel to their homes for dinner. Needless to say, we did not succeed. They packed most of us in their battered car and our one friend Ali had to sit on the roof.

In the village, we had dinner with their family and went for a tour of all the houses in the village.  I could not tell you how many coffees we drank!  Before our departure, they made us promise that we would come back soon so they could take us to Aragatz.

Armenian hospitality really is unbeatable!

– Celine

Armenian Landscape, Armenian Carpet!

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Credit : Charles Guenec

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[FAR Schools]: Congratulations to New Graduates of the Ounjian School!

July 29, 2009

July 3rd was a special day at the Ounjian School in Gyumri. That day, thirteen proud graduates were able to celebrate their special day in the presence of Mr. Ounjian himself, who warmly congratulated the students for their work.

The Ounjian School in Gyumri was destroyed during the earthquake in 1988. It was rebuilt in 2000 by FAR thanks to Armenian-American benefactor Dr. Ounjian. The building continues to undergo renovations and now has a brand new gymnasium.

Diploma Distribution by Dr. Ounjian

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Credit : Celine Kaladjian

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[Armenian Landscapes]

July 28, 2009

Ambert Fortress

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Credit : Celine Kaladjian

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[FAR Soup Kitchen]: Beneficiaries Stories, Janik from Nor Nchaj

July 28, 2009

Janik, 69 years old, visits FAR’s Nor Nchaj Soup Kitchen every day. The story of his difficult life is written on his wrinkled face. At an age when people should retire and live in decency, Janik lives on the street.

When he shares his story, he looks at you with very pale blue eyes: sadly, he is becoming blind. Minor surgery would restore his vision before he loses it entirely, but he has no pension and his stiff legs prevent him from working. Today, the Soup Kitchen is Janik’s last share of humanity, last hope to survive. At FAR, we are doing all we can to help the elderly of our Armenian communities live out their last days with peace and dignity.

Janik Attending FAR’s Soup Kitchen

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Credit : Celine Kaladjian

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[View from an Armenian Window]

July 28, 2009

Yerevan by Night

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Credit : Tigran Matoulian

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[Why do we visit Armenia?]: Tarra Kalian

July 28, 2009

By Talene Baroyan

A few summer ago, Tarra Kalian traveled to Armenia with the Armenian Service Program (ASP).  She spent a few weeks traveling around Armenia, and a few weeks volunteering at Camp Siranoush in Yeghenadzor, which is about 2 hours outside of Yerevan.

Why did Tarra go to Armenia?  The most honest answer was “because friends were going!!  This was an opportunity to travel to Armenia on a chaperoned trip with people who knew what they were doing, and where they were going.”  Tarra later had a moment of reflection and said that she had attended Armenian church every Sunday during high school, and wanted to see where all of the church traditions were born, as well as the place that her ancestors came from.

Upon arriving in Yerevan, Tarra was pleasantly surprised by how modern the city was. Yerevan was  cleaner and more organized that she expected.  It was less “developing” and more “developed.”  But Yeghenadzor was entirely different.  During the journey to camp, the bus driver told her group to lean to one side on hairpin turns, so that the bus would not go over the cliffs.  “Camp was rough,”  Tarra described.  There was no running water for the campers.  Water was obtained from a well, and the children were not able to shower.  The counselors had a shower to share, but it only had ice-cold water.   Every meal was bread and cheese, and the campers and counselors were given lentils on a good day.   Most campers had only one change of clothes.  Each counselor from U.S.A. had brought a box filled with stuff for the campers – makers, art supplies, stuffed animals, and other toys.   The children were thrilled to receive these things, and Tarra was thankful that she lugged the extra box from New Jersey to Yeghenadzor!

Exactly one year after leaving Armenia, Tarra took a trip back to Yerevan.  “I was soooo surprised to see the city’s amazing growth after just a year….how many new sidewalks were built, how many new shops were open.”  However, what left the greatest impression on Tarra was the difference in living standards between Yerevan and the countryside.  Through programs such as Continuing Medical Education and school rehabilitations, FAR works to increase the standard of living in the villages of Armenia.  With the help of our FAR supporters and all volunteers like Tarra, we will keep working to close the gap between life inside and outside of Yerevan.

Yerevan streets

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Credit : Celine Kaladjian

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[Beneficiary Portraits]

July 23, 2009

Lunch Time for Beneficiaries of FAR’s Summer Camp in Hrazdan

Beneficiaires Portraits, Lunchtime - Hrazdan Summer Camp

Credit : Celine Kaladjian

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[FAR Soup Kitchen] : Beneficiaries Stories, Nairi from Javakhk

July 23, 2009

Nairi was just a child when she started attending FAR’s Nor Njar Soup Kitchen fifteen years ago. At that time, Armenia was going through some of its darkest years and Nairi’s family was in dire straits. Her brother was particularly disturbed, and would often beat her.

One day, the beatings went too far, and Nairi’s vision became severely impaired. She had completely lost vision in one eye, and retained only 40% vision in the other eye. The Soup Kitchen staff, who treated Nairi as though she was their daughter, took her under their wing.

Today, the three cooks working in the soup kitchen tear up when they talk about Nairi. She has left FAR’s Nor Njar Soup Kitchen, and has just gotten married to a man in Javakhk. Nairi’s husband also suffers from physical disabilities, and they have found comfort in one another.

The three cooks from the Nor Njar soup kitchen gathered their savings, and prepared a suitcase filled with all of the necessities for Nairi’s new married life, from slippers to bedcovers. When Nairi’s mom opened the suitcase before her departure to Javakhk, she couldn’t believe her eyes. No matter what, Nairi will always have the love and support of FAR’s Nor Njar Soup Kitchen staff.

Faces of Nor Njar District

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Credit : Gayane Martirosyan (Young Soup Kitchen beneficiary)

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View From an Armenian Window

July 22, 2009

Lake Arpi from a car window

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Credit : Levon Lachikyan

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[Project Smile]: Farewell Event

July 22, 2009

Last week marked the conclusion of the second stage of Project Smile in Armenia.  As part of Project Smile, visiting health specialists from across the globe came together to help the Armenian community fight cleft lip and cleft palate disorders.  At FAR, we like to say that the new smiles will spread a little more kindness throughout the world!

A few weeks ago, those involved in the project’s implementation were invited to a farewell celebration at Arma restaurant in Yerevan.  The initiator and cofounder of the “Smile” Project in Armenia, Madeleine Minasyan – Ispiryan, expressed special thanks to the Fund for Armenian Relief for its dedicated work and successful implementation of the mission.

Smile Network International Medical Team Leader Rajbir Sarpal and Mission Coordinator in Armenia Carolyn Walsko awarded Thank You Certificates “For outstanding and generous contribution to Smile Network International” to FAR’s Margarit Piliposyan and Levon Lachikyan.

Project Smile Farewell Dinner

Smile Farewell Party

Credit: Levon Lachikyan