First full day in Armenia. After breakfast and strong coffee, we set off for FAR’s office, just a short ride away from our hotel. Over the past year, I’ve become quite well acquainted with FAR’s programs — or at least with their general scope. Today, however, I finally had the chance to see the faces and shake the hands of the staff members I’ve only previously met through Skype or email since my time with FAR began.
Sitting in the conference room, we were briefed on initiatives like Continuing Medical Education, child protection, GTECH, and FAR’s water project in Karabagh. But the highlight was the testimonials from program beneficiaries who sat in the room with us and told us how FAR, or HOF (“Hye Ognutian Fund” or Armenian Relief Fund, as FAR is known here in Armenia) has impacted their lives.
Gohar talked about how the Gulamerian Scholarship Program has helped her pursue her dream in education. It has funded five years of her university studies and she is on her way to becoming a dentist. Alexander, another Gulamerian scholar, is now studying at the Fine Arts Academy in Yerevan, where he majors in graphic design and participates in art exhibitions. Some like Hikaram are even doing their part to disseminate the spirit of volunteerism throughout the country by helping out in FAR’s summer camps.
Then, at the most touching point of the meeting, three young women Lusine, Lilia, and Anna, gave a heartfelt thank you to one of my travel companions whose father’s newly implemented scholarship program has enabled each of them to pursue their studies in music, chemistry, and pharmacology. She wasn’t the only person in the room who was visibly touched. Others around the table had tears in their eyes from their stories. I was certainly moved by the connection and the reminder of the powerful impact people can have on each other’s lives. My excitement for learning more about these programs and those they help has grown immensely.
As Arto said, this trip is indeed a chance to get to know Armenia from the inside. He is undoubtedly correct.