Feature Story – 40 Syrian refugee families supported in Armenia25 Jan 2016, by ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to refugees, Armenia in
ACN support of the neediest Syrian families
Forty payment plastic cards with the value of 20,000 AMD (approximately $55 CAN) were distributed to the 40 most vulnerable and needy families from the Syrian refugee community in Armenia. Syrians were assisted on the occasion of New Year and Christmas holidays in the frame of the project “Improving Livelihoods of Syrian refugees in Armenia,” a vocational and psychological program funded by International Charity “Aid to the Church in Need” and implemented by the Armenia Round Table Foundation (ARTF). The project is another example of a good cooperation between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Catholics in the country.
On December 25th and December 28th, ARTF organized the distribution of plastic cards in close cooperation with Araratyan Patriarchal Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church and “Aleppo” NGO, which Syrian refugees, particularly women, attend regularly for psychosocial sessions that contribute to their recovery and improve their resilience. Plastic payment cards give them free access to their choice of food products, and allow them a restricted purchase of alcohol and cigarettes.
Bishop Navasard Kchoyan welcomed Syrian refugees with prayers and encouraged their involvement in Church activities. The Bishop underlined that Syrians have their own unique features, and today they enrich the lives of the Armenians, returning to their roots under these sad circumstances. He expressed gratitude to the Syrian-Armenian people for keeping their spirit, faith and traditions.
The situation on the ground is much more difficult than anyone could imagine because some of the families are newcomers while others have been living in Armenia for 2 or 3 years and nothing has changed in their lives since their arrival. Mainly they live in rented flats and are not able to afford the communal expenses, the rents, and food, medical and other social services. Most of them live in cold houses because they can’t use electrical and gas heaters. The ARTF Program Officer made ten home visits out of forty families included on the lists for card distribution.
An 80-year-old woman was sitting covered by a dozen blankets so as not to freeze. She was blind and her legs were paralyzed and she needed her two daughters’ assistance all the time. She needs medicine, food and heat. Hearing the visitor’s voice brought tears from her eyes.
Another elderly woman kept silent all the time. She lost her son. He was a soldier, in Syria. Her grandchildren became her only sense of solace heart thereafter.
A new nation and thanks to the Church, a new homeland
Arpy Pchakchyan’s family arrived on December 22, 2015 assisted by “Aleppo” NGO’s project “Save a Life.” They lived in Aleppo without water, food, and devoid of basic hygienic conditions to live in. They have 2 children: Zheni is 15 and Caro is 10. Remembering the horrors of war, Caro covered his face with trembling fingers. Currently they live in a two-room flat rented by Arpy’s mother; in total 8 people live in this flat. Despite all the difficulties, they are happy to have come to Armenia which they consider to be their homeland, to reunite with their family members – and mainly they are happy because they are still alive.
Arpy is willing to attend a vocational course training group as her sister Mari did, who attended courses on manicuring and earns money providing home service to customers.
All the families expressed their gratitude for ARTF and all benefactors for the training and humanitarian assistance, especially on a difficult Christmas Eve. A fund of $2,320 CAN was offered to provide presents for refugees.
One thing is clear – they all want to find jobs and they are strong enough to start a new life in Armenia after losing their homes, property and loved ones in the war.
More on the programs for the improvement of livelihood of Syrian Armenian refugees in Armenia (vocational & psychological) ACN funded with $43,500 CAN
This project was jointly presented by Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, Head of the Inter-Church Relations of the Armenian Apostolic Church and by Archbishop Rafael Minassian, Ordinary of Armenian Catholics in Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Eastern Europe. It was launched on 30 June, 2015 in the Art House training Center in Yerevan with a plan for training 40 Syrian refugee women and youth for various professions. Another important objective of the project is the continuous support of a priest and an experienced psychologist for the affected refugees.
By Alla Sarkissova/Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada