Helping the disabled in Armenia

Glendale News Press
28 Feb2005

Helping the disabled in Armenia

Nearly $10,000 was raised during event for Pyunic, an organization that
promotes rights of disabled in Armenia.

By Robert Chacon, News-Press and Leader

GLENDALE — The Armenian earthquake of 1988 destroyed the use of
Greta Khndzrtsyan’s legs, but it did not destroy her desire to achieve.

The double amputee was two years old when the earthquake struck —
rescue workers found her in the arms of her deceased mother under
piles of rubble — and is one of the disabled athletes from Armenia
competing in the upcoming Los Angeles Marathon wheelchair race that
was honored Sunday at a luncheon fundraiser by Pyunic, an association
that promotes the rights of the disabled in Armenia.

Close to $10,000 was raised during the event at Brandview Collection
through ticket sales, donations and a silent auction. The money will
fund a variety of programs to help disabled people in Armenia.

“In Armenia, it’s not like in the U.S.,” Pyunic board member Lori
Sivazlian said. “The country does not have critical ways of assisting
them. Disabled babies in Armenia are usually placed in orphanages.”
Disabled-person access to things such as public transportation,
high-rise buildings, homes and sidewalks is virtually nonexistent,
she said, though her group is working to change that.

Pyunic was formed after the earthquake that killed 25,000 people,
and left hundreds of thousands homeless, injured or disabled. It
helps raise funds for equipments and advocacy work.

“Every time I see a person in a wheelchair enter a bus here in the
U.S., it reminds me of what we want to achieve,” Pyunic President
Sarkis Ghazarian said.

There are 130,000 disabled people in Armenia, Ghazarian said, adding
that the country is years behind in assistance for disabled people.

For Khndzrtsyan, representing Armenia in the Los Angeles Marathon on
March 6 is a source of pride, she said. This is the second time she
has traveled from Armenia to compete in the marathon.

“The last time, my arms and hands were all bloody from the competition,
but I still completed the race,” she said about the race two years ago.

Marine Hakobyan also made the trip from Armenia and is competing for
the first time in the wheelchair race. She was left paralyzed from
the waste down after the earthquake.

“I have never done this, but I have trained enough and feel good,”
she said.

Some of the roughly 200 people who attended the luncheon walked away
with paintings, jewelry, rugs and arts and crafts made in Armenia.

“I came her to support Pyunic in their efforts,” said Glendale
resident Angele Eskandari, who acquired a silver necklace during the
auction. “People are not as aware in Armenia about disabled issues
as they are here in the U.S.”

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress