- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 December 12 , 2003 

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Dear ArmeniaNow readers:

For many of us, the sacred and traditional holidays of this season offer a period of reflection. It is a time to look inside ourselves to see the good fortune that is overlooked in the busy-ness of our normal days. And it is a time to look outward, toward those whose lives may be less rewarded than ours, often for no reason other than fate.

The vision of our HyeSanta project is that, this season, we might serve as a link between you and those who need your help.

Some of the stories you will find in this special edition illustrate individual need; some show systemic problems; and some show that efforts are being made to reduce general hardship in Armenia.

In Armenia's beleaguered society, the gaze does not have to extend far to find those whose lives can be made better through even small efforts. This is our small effort at giving you an opportunity to contribute through our site and help some in Armenia enjoy a better New Year.

Read this week's stories and then click on the Contributions link to give your support. Please inform us if your donation is for a specific cause. All funds received will go to sources profiled in HyeSanta.

Thank you and Merry Christmas (both of them) and Happy New Year from everyone at Regular editions of ArmeniaNow will resume December 19.

John Hughes and Tony Halpin

Family Devotion: Teenage refugee trades school for work to become bread winner

David Antonyan is 15, and is his family's sole provider. He collects bottles near his home in Abovyan and every day makes the 20 kilometer trip to Yerevan to sell them for money to feed his family.

The Antonyans - David, his 12-year old sister Marine and their mother, Karine - are refugees from Azerbaijan. The Antonyans left Baku in 1989 when it no longer became safe for Armenians to live in Azerbaijan.


Below Living Standards: A mother and four children fight the elements of basement life

In the evening when the shadows thicken, the voices lapse into silence and the cold becomes unbearable, an uneven tap can be clearly heard in the basement of a high-rise building in Yerevan.

Marlena Yeremyan, 42, is carefully moving from one part of the room to another. The noise is from the stick in her hand. She uses it to protect her children from rats.


Unwhole: Family of missing soldier suffers eight years of increasing loss

The Babayan family doesn't know how it will heat its apartment this winter. In other years they've been able to save money from the monthly budget of 23,500 drams (about $42) for winter needs, but not this year.

Sixty-four year old Marat Babayan and his three daughters Nazeny, Arpine and Varsenik live in their three room apartment on the outskirts of Yerevan. Varsine, who has been in fragile health all her life has been more sick over the past year and medicines have been costly.



Broken Ties: Families victimized by domestic violence are offered "Hope"

She is skinny, shrunken, with eyes like a frightened bird. Through childishly incoherent speech interrupted by sobs, she is trying to find the right words to tell her story . . .

"I was scared to go back home. I was afraid he would kill me," she finally bursts out and becomes silent, making clear that the story has finished.



Two Rooms, One Family:
Six members become seven with surprise return of first son

In a Yerevan hospital, 26-year old Laura Yeritsyan faced a decision motherhood could not prepare her for. Her child, and, significantly, the family's first boy, would die within 10 days, doctors told her.

She had just given birth to Hayk, her fourth child. Datev, Anahit and Gayane were age 9, 8 and 2 and healthy. Laura and her husband Vartan wanted a son, but when their wish was granted, the child they got was born with severe problems. Specifically, the baby was born with a cleft lip and a hole in his palate.


Smiling Through Tragedy: A teenager adapts to a handicap from war

The bright-faced teenager uses her toes to bring a fire starter to the gas stove. Then she uses her toes to open the gas and light a flame for making coffee, which she serves with a smile.

Mary Mezhlumyan is 18, and for the past 10 years has had to find ways of daily existence far different from others. Almost everyone in her town of Kapan (about 320 kilometers south of Yerevan) knows something about survival. Mary knows more than most.




Facing Life's Elements: Orphanage has warm environment, but cold conditions

When the door to their room opens the children of Qanaqer-Zeitun orphanage look with anticipation, as if any adult could be the one who has come to take them home.

Two year old Vahan runs forward and warmly hugs a woman who has come to visit, kissing her and patting her face. One of the other children asks: "Are you going to take him home?"

It is not often that the question is answered affirmatively.


Shaken Foundation of Faith: 17 villages need new place of worship in Noyemberyan

Eleven year old Vigen, school bag on his back, was running after other kids, screaming at them in Noyemberyan dialect: "Hey, kids go away, don't enter."

The boy runs till his cheeks are red and sweat shines on his forehead, acting as the unofficial security guard of St. Sargis Church.

"We live in this district. Vigen watches that nobody enters the church and vandalizes whatever is left," says Vigen's mother, 31 year old Voskehat, who sells candles at the church.


For More Than Art's Sake: Women and juveniles learn craft, not crime, in prison program

A few teenage boys and women sit together in a room where a yellow light shines on their attempts at creating art. Their hands are buried in clay, and when the task is finished they will admire their work and marvel that they could become artists.

This is the Abovyan Prison for Women and Juveniles. And for the past two years, the non governmental organization (NGO) Trtu has turned the lockup into a sort of art colony for criminals.


Hearing Aid: Cultural center helps deaf teenager cope with life in Gyumri

Like plenty teenagers, 15-year old Aram Baghdasaryan of Gyumri is happy when his family goes to bed, and he gets the television to himself. For Aram, TV is a window to an unknown world - tempting, and a little scary.

Aram turns down the volume. For him the sound is useless and irritating. He has been deaf and dumb since he was six months old - since December 7, 1988 when Gyumri (then Leninakan) became famous because of its deadly earthquake.



In Need of Victory: Denied the security of tradition, 22 percent of Armenia's elderly require humanitarian aid

Vahan Abrahamyan is a cordial and enthusiastic host when guests visit. His wife Mari Karidjyan offers coffee and sweets, as is expected in each Armenian home.

Vahan and Mari are newlyweds. He is 77 years old and she is 72.

They married last year in a place in which many elderly never expected to find themselves.


According to Agnes
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The Week in seven days


The Arts in seven days


  Photo of the week
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Good Morning Yerevan

It is the season of gray mornings in Yerevan. Unlike last year, December has, so far, been mild.


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