- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 11, 2003 

Help and Hope: Mission Armenia reaches out to elderly and refugees

The elderly and refugees get daily meals at Mission Armenia canteens.Thirty years of loneliness had left Yevgenia Harutyunyan with bitter feelings about a lack of human kindness.

"I couldn't imagine there is an organization that will appear in my life to save and help me, to serve me and to make me live longer," the pensioner now says, having had her hope renewed by Mission Armenia, one of a few organizations volunteering services for the elderly in Armenia.

Established in 1993, Mission Armenia ( now has 21 canteens, serving hot meals to some 3,000 aged and needy.

"I was also visiting other charitable canteens but there I was treated as a beggar," says Emma Navasardyan. "We go to these charitable canteens as if we visit a restaurant. We are served with smiles. I haven't even mentioned cleanness and freshness of the food."

But Mission Armenia offers more than just a meal.

"We feel like people here," says Zhenia Vardanyan, who was a teacher for 50 years. "They treat us as parents in this center. We do different things such as singing and other things. They even know our birthdays and make surprises and celebrations for us."

Centers like the one Zhenia speaks of have been created in Yerevan and eight regions of the country. Nationwide, about 6,000 elderly and 10,000 refugees find their daily needs through the centers. In the Mission Armenia community centers, clients also get legal advice, psychological counseling and occasional site-seeing trips and packaged food they can take back to their homes.

Galina Semionova says Mission Armenia has become family.The infirmed are also helped through special programs that include healthcare, rehabilitation and nursing services. About 3,000 elderly disabled receive treatment in their homes.

Galina Semionova, an 83-year old World War II veteran was alone in her damp home with little more than photographs of her parents for companionship. But one day she received a visitor who came from Mission Armenia.

"They treat me like a child," Galina says. "They bathe me, heat my home and pay bills for electricity. I haven't gotten married but today I have children who do everything for me."

The elderly who are unable to leave their homes are visited once a week by a doctor who examines them and if necessary they are provided with medicines free of charge. In critical cases doctors make multiple visits per week.

Mission Armenia is supported by numerous sponsors, including the British, Swiss and Americans.

While the elderly and alone are especially vulnerable, the centers are also concerned for the needs of the thousands of refugees who fled Azerbaijan during the Karabakh war.

"Besides providing social, healthcare and treatment services we also implement a large program on refugee's development," says public relations officer Narine Bezirganyan. "We think it is very important to educate refugee children and help them to obtain some professions."

The organization has established courses on drawing, hairdressing, and computer skills.

Mission Armenia also sponsors a "Food for Work" program for unemployed refugees.

"Due to the implementation of these programs hundreds of families were able to establish the source of their income" Bezirganyan says.

Friendships have blossomed at Mission Armenia centers.Refugee Lyudmila Tomasova has encountered many charitable organizations during her 14 years in Armenia, but says Mission Armenia has been most helpful.

"We are getting from them not only material and psychological assistance, but we also have gotten such a present we couldn't dream about," she says.

"It is hard to imagine the conditions we were living in, and then suddenly a present - the renovation of our apartment. After that we started to live and appreciate our life."

The organization has opened a new page of life for pensioner Pargev Arakelyan as well. He compares this reality with a legend and presents his verses to the organization and its founder Hripsime Kirakosyan.

Wondering lonely in numerous anxieties
Isolated, hopeless and feeble,
Thought it was an illusion,
When my door was knocked.
"Who is the stranger remembering me "? I wondered,
"Perhaps you have the wrong address ?"
"No" was the insisting answer,
Just then I realized the light coming out from the darkness,
The light directed to my house, and finally,
My emigrant peace was coming back to my home.


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  Photo of the week
  Drawing Criticism
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Drawing Criticism

An exhibition of cartoons has been on display at Moscow Cinema since April 1. It is the first such exhibit in 17 years and not everybody is pleased about whose work was included. Among the aggrieved was this group of young cartoonists whose cartoons were not selected. They rallied outside the cinema Monday, wearing their work.



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