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Karen's journey beyond developmental disability: Finding purpose in cooking



Twice a week, 23-year-old Karen hops on bus #42 from Yerevan to Parakar, Aramvir province, to dive into the world of cooking from A to Z at Parakar's James and Marta Batmasian Vocational Training Center. In 2022, he enrolled in culinary arts program because he wanted to feel competent and useful. 


On the way to Parakar school, he watches a YouTube show called "Kitchen." "I watch it to pass the time and learn new stuff,” said Karen whose culinary adventures know no bounds, with vegetable salads and cakes topping his list of favorite dishes to whip up. Last year, he baked his first cake--Castella--all by himself, instantly earning the title of household ‘dessert connoisseur’, much to his mother's delight. 


And the kitchen magic doesn't stop there! 


When Karen gets back home, he transitions into a cook assistant for his mom, Fatima Babadaghlyan, 60, slicing potatoes for homemade fries and experimenting with different salads.


“Karen was in love with cooking since he was knee-high. He would watch cooking shows on TV and try to replicate their recipes despite his disease. Now, seeing him cook fills me with happiness," said Fatima, adding that Karen's passion for cooking flourished particularly at Parakar School.


Karen faced challenges early on due to complications at birth, which led to developmental delays and trouble connecting with others. But things changed for the better when he enrolled at Parakar's James and Marta Batmasian Vocational Training Center.



Two years down the road, Karen's feeling pretty sure about where he's headed. He knows his way around the kitchen so well now that he's confident he'll land a gig as a kitchen assistant. "When I was a kid, I had two big dreams: first, I wanted to cook up a storm in the kitchen, and second, I wanted to be a driver. But with my mom's advice, I decided to focus on cooking. I've just always loved it.”


In March, we recognize Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Many kids, like Karen, are learning vital life skills at James and Marta Batmasian Vocational Training Center to fit into society and bounce back stronger. FAR has always had their back, but we need your support, too. Your donation to FAR today can make a real difference in helping these kids build resilience. 


Parakar School for Children and Youth with Special Needs stands as a beacon of hope for Armenia's youth, including those with disabilities. Reborn through the generosity of FAR's donors Marta and James Batmasian, the Mirak-Weissbach Foundation, and the New York Friends of Gavar Special School, the school has completely reshaped the culture of educating children with disabilities.


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