Lilit Iskandaryan was a student with little hope. With her family desperately struggling to make ends meet, she feared she’d be unable to afford her university tuition through this academic year and beyond.
Recently, she’d heard about the Philadelphia Armenian Scholarship Fund, one of FAR’s several scholarship programs, which aims to support students from low-income families who cannot afford higher education. While doubtful she’d be granted the scholarship, Lilit applied nevertheless.
When she heard she’d been accepted, she wept tears of joy. Later, during our meeting with her in Yeghegnadzor, she confessed: “I have never been so happy, as our family struggles in extremely hard conditions and cannot afford to continue to pay my tuition fees. So, it was unknown as to whether I could continue my education. It was God’s will and the willingness of kind people to support me that I am now able to fulfill my dream.”
Lilit was born in 1993, during some of Armenia’s hardest times in the village of Karaglukh, in Yeghegnadzor. Her father Sergey, along with many other refugees of Azerbaijan’s Shamakhi region had moved to Yeghegnadzor and found shelter in one of its village centers. There he met her mother Sirvard and they started a family. Sergey was diagnosed with mental illness in 2005 and is now in the care of the Vardenis Psychiatric Hospital.
The family’s long-term dream of having their own house remains unfulfilled. Currently, Lilit lives with her mother, handicapped since childhood, and her 14 year-old brother Sargis, in the uncompleted section of Karaglukh’s lone kindergarten building. Sirvard works as a nurse in the local clinic and earns a salary of about $100US per month. This, along with the money earned from selling the apples that grow nearby, is the family’s sole source of income. They have no relatives or extended family to help them.
Since childhood, Lilit has dreamed of becoming an artist. She began drawing in early childhood and entered Gitelik’s Department of Fine Arts and Drawing upon graduation from high school. During our interview with her, she showed us her workshop.
“As a child, Lilit used to draw everywhere — on the ground, on smooth stones, sometimes on clothes or paper — on whatever surface was available,” her mother Sirvard recalled. During school Lilit frequently painted portraits of her teachers and friends. She loved drawing most of all and she is still in love with painting.
Lilit’s greatest dream is to have her own personal art exhibition. Now, she’s one step closer to turning that dream into a reality.