- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 20, 2004

Sweet Message: Cancer awareness campaign says it with chocolates

Such chocolate boxes with health messages are likely to appear in stores soon

A new fundraising campaign aims to raise public awareness of breast cancer in Armenia by publicizing its message on specially created chocolate boxes.

The Armenian-American Wellness Center in Yerevan (AAWC) hopes the pink heart-shaped boxes will be prized for its symbolism as well as the taste of its contents.

A message explains that part of the proceeds from each sale will go to pay for breast screening for needy women and men in Armenia.

In a combination of philanthropy and business expertise that remains rare in the republic, the center has teamed up with the Grand Candy company, a leader in confection production in Armenia, for what it hopes will be a successful campaign.

“We have a prior agreement with Grand Candy on the production of chocolates for this humanitarian mission,” says Khachanush Hakobyan, the AAWC's Executive Director. “However, the mass production of chocolates will depend on the success of 45 pilot boxes, which we have distributed to our partners and friends in Armenia and the US. We want to investigate the market and to know if people think it will work in Armenia.”

The idea for the fundraiser was suggested by Rita Balian, the President of AAWC who founded the Armenian-American Mammography Center in 1997, which was later renamed the wellness center to better reflect the range of services it offers.

The center, which operates with the help of contributions and assistance from donors, mostly in the US, provides early detection and treatment of breast cancer as well as assistance with various female disorders.

Hakobyan says the center registered an alarming increase in breast cancer among women, with one in ten women suffering symptoms to various degrees.

Breast screening costs the center about $60, but it charges patients only 10,000 drams (about $18) and cover the rest of the sum itself. So far, about 47,000 women and men have been screened there.

“Still, many people can not afford to pay $18 themselves even once a year for screening, that's why we need to find additional financing to have a chance to screen needy people free of charge,” Hakobyan says.

She believes that, apart from raising funds, the campaign will encourage people to learn about breast cancer and to go for screening, thus taking care of their own health.

The pilot product contains 12 chocolates with the Grand Candy and AAWC logos on the box, which is decorated with a pink ribbon around the contour of a woman's bust. The ribbon is the symbol of breast cancer awareness.

Galstyan says Grand Candy Company
is glad to take over this campaign

Gayane Galstyan, Executive Director of Grand Candy, says she is very encouraged by the idea of the campaign.

“While such charity actions are common in Europe and the US, in Armenia this action is unprecedented. Our society distrusts everything that is not usual, especially when it deals with charity,” Galstyan says.

“But I believe that after some time, our society too would prefer to buy a certain kind of chocolate, knowing that the money paid will help someone to get treatment.”

Galstyan says that they have not yet decided the price of the chocolate or the volume of production for the campaign.

“Let it be, and then we will agree all the details,” she says. “We appreciated the idea and did not charge the center for the pilot production which cost us $200.”

Grand Candy is Armenia's largest manufacturer of confectionery. Established by businessman Hrant Vardanyan in 2000, the company offers over 250 kinds of chocolates, marmalade, biscuits, and waffles, as well as ice-cream and pasta. It also has a network of modern-decorated doughnut cafes in Yerevan, which are popular with the young.

Both Grand Candy and AAWC hope that their charity project will find a supportive response from the public and encourage other humanitarian actions.

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Ombudsman Appointed

Ombudsmanship proves to be women's job in South Caucasus. Larisa Alaverdyan, Armenia's first ombudsman, was appointed by President Kocharyan, Thursday, February 19. Armenia is the third country of the region to appoint a woman for this position of human rights protector.



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