Some of Armenia's most vulnerable children may prove to be the biggest beneficiaries of a meeting last week in Red Bank, N.J.
That's where a group of distinguished women from the Eastern Diocese gathered to brainstorm ways to support and advance the mission of the Fund for Armenian Relief's Children's Center—one of the leading entities serving the cause of child protection in the republic's capital city of Yerevan.
Since its founding in the year 2000, the FAR Children's Center has improved, transformed—and occasionally saved—the lives of some 6,000 children, aged 3 to 18, who were deemed "at-risk" for a host of heartbreaking social pathologies.
In the FAR Children's Center, these young people find a safe refuge: a warm, encouraging environment of care, affection, and dignity. To the casual observer, it comes as a shock to realize that the sweet smiles on display at the Children's Center have re-emerged after leaving behind histories of abuse, abandonment, homelessness, neglect, or extreme poverty.
The December 2 gathering in Red Bank met under the presiding guidance of Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), and president of FAR. Participants resolved to direct their support to the FAR Children's Center—and to organize the others throughout the Diocese to do the same.
"We came together as Armenian women, for the sake of these special children—who are the concern of all of us, as Armenians," said Mrs. Sirvart Hovnanian, the honorary chairperson of the committee.
"They are Armenia's most destitute youth, and it would be so easy to overlook them," she added. "But the FAR Children's Center has been an angel of mercy to these kids for the past 10 years, and we should all support its noble mission, and its dedicated and caring staff."
At the Children's Center, each child receives individual care and attention. A professional staff of social workers, psychologists, and nurses address the specific issues of each child, and work with that child and his or her family. Indeed, its overarching goal is to strengthen these families, and to ensure the child's reunification with his or her biological parents, wherever possible.
Keeping the child's interests paramount, the Center has succeeded in its role as a "gate-keeper" for at-risk kids, keeping them on a productive road of education and training, and away from the dead-end paths that might otherwise entangle them.
The new Children's Center committee has a dynamic membership, fully committed to a concerted effort of outreach.
"We are grateful to these extraordinary women who have joined together to support the FAR Children's Center," said Archbishop Barsamian. "And I am especially happy to see Mrs. Sirvart Hovnanian chairing this effort—truly a continuation of the noble legacy of her late husband, Mr. Kevork Hovnanian, one of FAR's visionary founders."
"Above all," the Primate added, "I know that with the leadership of this committee, the lives of some otherwise neglected children in our homeland will be brighter."
The members of the FAR Children Center committee have already begun an outreach effort to local communities throughout the Eastern Diocese, and are identifying ways to educate parishioners and friends about the Center, and encourage them to find creative ways to support it.
Information on the FAR Children's Center committee is available by contacting Mrs. Nadya Garipian at (201) 871-9269 or Mrs. Sylva Torosian at (201) 894-0143.
The members of the committee include: Mrs. Sirvart Hovnanian (honorary chair), Mrs. Nadya Garipian (co-chair), Mrs. Sylva Torosian (co-chair), Mrs. Nuart Arslan, Mrs. Yegsa Bestepe, Mrs. Ani Hamparsumian, Mrs. Magda Najarian, Mrs. Sossie Najarian, Mrs. Karen Nargizian, Mrs. Talar Sarafian, Mrs. Anita Temiz, and Mrs. Alice Yigitkurt.