The young residents of the FAR Children’s Center in Yerevan, Armenia, received a memorable Christmas celebration filled with gifts, clothes and a special visit from Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, on December 22, 2017.
Warmly greeting Archbishop Barsamian, the children performed a Christmas concert where they portrayed heroes from Armenian fairy tales and engaged in dialogue about Armenian history, language and the church. While receiving a tour of the center, Archbishop Barsamian admired the new handicraft items made by the residents, including paintings and woodwork.
“These children are our children,” said Archbishop Barsamian, President of the Fund for Armenian Relief. “My wish for them is to grow healthily in their minds, bodies and souls and become the graceful children of our Armenian Church.”
The day’s biggest surprise was the arrival of Santa Clause, carrying bags of gifts while the children danced to the tune of the American classic, “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” They were overjoyed to receive Christmas presents and warm clothing for the winter.
The Archbishop acknowledged the generosity of parishioners in the Eastern Diocese and the Friends of the FAR Children’s Center, whose efforts resulted in Christmas toys for the at-risk residents, who live at the center to seek a safe haven from difficult family situations.
“New Year and Christmas is the best time to show our love and respect to the others,” said Archbishop Barsamian. “We must care for the needy because this is what Christ was preaching to us.”
Highlighting the importance of Archbishop Barsamian’s visit, Dr. Mira Antonyan, Executive Director of the FAR Children’s Center, said his presence among the children “means joy and festivity and the chance for our residents to have a chance to enjoy Christmas.”
Friends in Faraway Places
The holiday party for the children, which has become an annual tradition, was made possible by the dedicated members of the Friends of the FAR Children’s Center, based in the New York City metro area. Led by visionary honorary chair Sirvart Hovnanian and co-chaired by Nadya Garipian and Sylva Torosian, the aim of the group is to raise funds to provide Christmas gifts to the residents at the FAR Children’s Center. This year, the children received additional gifts, including warm winter coats, thanks to the generosity of the Dadourian family. Through unified efforts, including working with local parish communities in the Eastern Diocese, the current residents at the center were able to unwrap gifts during the Christmas season.
“On behalf of the committee members and myself, we would like to extend our gratitude to Archbishop Barsamian for helping us give the children an enjoyable time during this festive occasion,” said Torosian. “It is our utmost pleasure to be able to help the children celebrate Christmas and the New Year.”
Since its inception in the year 2000, through the diligence of the Eastern Diocese and Fund for Armenian Relief, Armenia’s children and adolescents have been able to find protection at the FAR Children’s Center, leaving behind homes with a history of abuse, abandonment, homelessness, neglect or poverty.
The only national, full-service facility in Armenia that performs crisis intervention and rehabilitation, the center has served thousands of children in dire need of short-term shelter, rehabilitation and housing. After receiving these outreach services, the majority of the residents are eventually reunited with their families.
For those who are unable to return to their families, the Fund for Armenian Relief has partnered with the Armenian government over the past decade to develop the country’s first foster care program. The organization continues to work hand-in-hand with UNICEF-Armenia to ensure these foster children are taken into good homes and are able to thrive in a positive family environment.
“We feel blessed that we are able to change lives for the most vulnerable children in Armenia,” said Antonyan, who remarked on the importance of partnering with other organizations to become an even more viable institution.
Although the FAR Children’s Center has made significant strides in its short history, they are continuously searching for ways to advance the progress of the center and the shelter, guidance and services they can provide to Armenia’s children.
“Our plans for the New Year are ambitious but they are target-oriented,” said Antonyan. “We are looking to find innovative ways to help individual children and strengthen protection systems.”
“Together, we are changing Armenia and we are getting closer to our dreams.”
By Taleen Babayan