A three-year-old boy runs every morning to the door waiting for his mother to return, but she never does. A seven-year-old girl who has lived with her family underground due to economic difficulties has never had a bath throughout her life. Two pre-teenage brothers have been sexually abused for many years. These are just some of the hundreds of neglected children who have been protected, housed, treated, educated and loved at Yerevan’s Children’s Center during the past 16 years. This compassionate and unique institution has been created, sponsored, and financed by the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), since its inception.
On April 28, “Friends of the FAR Children’s Center” hosted an elegant luncheon at the Charter House in Weehawken, N.J., with more than 100 ladies in attendance to benefit the Children’s Center. The tables of the event were decorated with beautifully created white ceramic trees. Small framed photos of some of the children were draped along its branches. The luncheon began with an invocation by the Very Rev. Fr. Papken Anoushian, Pastor of St. Thomas Armenian Apostolic Church in Tenafly, N.J.
A Home, a Lifesaver
Mistress of Ceremonies Mrs. Mary Cruikshank warmly welcomed the guests, and related that young neglected children who have suffered so greatly in the last decade and a half since Armenia’s independence from physical and sexual abuse, abandonment, poor nutrition, homelessness, single family homes, have been cared for in this ideal refuge by a staff of dedicated educated, medical, and cultured professionals. “The Children’s Center is like home for these children, a lifesaver,” she said with emotion, and added that the “Friends of the FAR Children’s Center” has sent money and gifts during all the holiday periods to the Center.
Since January, more than 180 children have been sheltered for various periods at the Children’s Center; 100 of these families do not wish to have their children returned to them, Mrs. Cruikshank revealed. In addition to helping these children, the Center also helps the families by offering them medical and economic assistance, she said.
FAR’s Extraordinary Efforts and Achievements
Cruikshank also informed the audience that FAR succeeded in sponsoring and editing several bills for the protection of children in Armenia’s Parliament, all of which were passed. “This was an extraordinary accomplishment for a newly independent country.”
A highlight of the event was an enthusiastic revelation by John Leonard who is married to Christine Mekhitarian. The couple, who has visited Armenia several times, initiated a project of introducing photography as a healing tool. “The imagery of nature makes people feel healthy,” he said. The project called “Changing Landscapes,” sponsored by the FAR “AYO” organization, takes the Center’s children on photography trips where they photograph the wonders of nature which are abundant in Armenia. The first photographs by these children were framed and donated to hospitals throughout Armenia. “It focused on beauty and its healing effect,” Leonard related, and added with a smile that one child said he wanted to be a photographer.
Several of these framed photos—displaying flowers, landscapes, khachkars, and Mount Ararat—were available for purchase at the luncheon, and were quickly scooped up.
Another highlight, a video displaying the life, education, affection shown to the children by the Center’s staff, prepared by FAR’s communications team, delighted the audience. Also on the luncheon program was a fashion show, and a silent auction of valuable gifts. Several vendors were also present, and donated a percentage of their sales to the afternoon’s fundraising effort.
The inspiring event concluded with the benediction by the Very Rev. Fr. Papken Anoushian.
The dedicated members of the “Friends of FAR Children’s Center” include Honorary Chair Sirvart Hovnanian, Co-Chairs Nadya Garipian and Sylva Torosian, and members Nivart Arslan, Sonya Bekarian, Yegsa Bestepe, Talin Berberoglu, Annette Choolfaian, Mary Cruikshank, Magda Najarian, Sossie Najarian, Anita Temiz, and Alice Yigitkurt.
Those wishing to contribute to the FAR Children’s Center should contact the New York FAR office, by calling (212) 889-5150, or visiting www.farusa.org
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-Atlantic