Hasratyan is Ororots' coordinator.
Last summer in one of Yerevan's maternity hospitals
a newborn girl named Liana was abandoned.
The child was healthy. But conditions in the
mother's home were not. No electricity because
of unpaid debts. An income of $12 a month to feed
the mother and Liana's two sisters, ages four
Liana's father had been unemployed for four years.
He left to find work in Moscow six months before
the baby was born. But he failed to get work and
could not afford to return to Yerevan.
So the mother escaped from the hospital leaving
Liana behind rather than face the difficulty of
trying to care for her.
The hospital kept Liana for a month, then she
was either adopted or turned over to an orphanage;
the hospital isn't sure.
An estimated 5,000 families in Armenia with children
less than one year old face such conditions as
Liana's parents. And such conditions are one reason
why the birth rate has decreased by almost three
times in the past decade.
"During 10 years this is the first year
when there was no decrease in birth rate in the
republic, but there also was no increase,"
says president of the Association of Women with
University Education Jemma Hasratyan.
"Armenian families realize that it is necessary
to have a second or third child, but it is impossible
because of lack of money."
One year ago the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund and
30 women's public organizations established "Ororots"
(cradle) a project aimed at bringing relief to
families such as Liana's.
It is aimed at helping any needy family with
a child under age one by providing a "healthy
baby package", valued at $150, and containing
clothes, food and other nursing items.
The first stage of Ororots is to be started this
month in the Syunik region, where the birth rate
is about half that of other regions. About 100
families with infants will receive the Ororots
It has taken organizers longer than they had
hoped to get the program started.
"Any similar work requires organization
in the beginning," says Hasratyan, leader
of the Women's Council of Public Organizations
coordinating the Ororots project. "Unfortunately
the work of this project lasted longer than it
Hasratyan says the work has been curtailed because
the project did not collect the necessary funds.
"We personally applied to all the Ministers
of Armenia and to Parliament Members, public organizations,
businessmen and Diaspora Armenians asking to help
to fulfill our project as far as possible,"
says Hasratyan, adding uneasily that Diaspora
responded more than locals.
To meet the necessities of 5,000 families, the
project needs $750,000 ($150-package to each child,
from which $90 is for clothes and nursing items
and the rest is for food). However, during the
past year the fund collected only $22,000.
"In this project participation of each Armenian
is important," says Hasratyan. "Each
Armenian person must realize that he or she is
extending a helping hand to a newborn child by
helping our project."
Hasratyan believes that each resident of Armenia
can help to solve this problem with only a small
healthy baby package containing clothes, food
and other items in value of $150.
"According to official data, about one million,
four hundred thousand people participated in the
recent Armenian presidential elections. I deduct
half of this number considering that many people
are not able to help, but if the remaining 700,000
people give one dollar to the fund this problem
will be solved for one year," Hasratyan says.
She says Ororots gets better support from average
citizens than from the rich.
"There are too few benefactors among our
entrepreneurs," says Hasratyan. "If
they earn exorbitant incomes, they should realize
that they got it from their people and return
at least a part of it to them."
The project has approached various international
organizations over the past year. UMCOR (United
Methodist Council on Relief) responded with 1,300
packages for newborns.
In April those packages were distributed in the
neediest regions - Gegharkunik and Lori. About
500 needy families with babies under 6 months
were given two packages each.
The packages for Syunik region are almost ready.
According to Hasratyan, the last problem to be
solved is the dark color of babies' blankets.
"We should replace them with a brighter
color," says Hasratyan. "The purpose
of Ororots is that the aid does not leave an impression
of a poor sack. It should be both nice and colorful,
so that a family feels that in our country there
is also an atmosphere of kindness and care."
In the coming months project organizers are planning
to organize a Charity marathon as soon as the
"election marathon" in the republic
finishes at the end of the year.
"We'll start our actions after parliamentarian
elections, so that candidates participating in
the elections do not use this project for their
interest," Hasratyan says.
"We don't want 'Ororots' to penetrate into
politics, to be within political actions, we want
it to be a part of development process of a normal,