The Armenian Weekly; Sept. 8, 2007; Armenia

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The Armenian Weekly; Volume 73, No. 36; Sept. 8, 2007

Armenia:

1. Philatelphia Creative Center in Yerevan, Abovian Helps Disabled Youth
By Zaruhi Shushanian
(Armenian Weekly Yerevan Correspondent)

2. Two Stories from the V. Sarksyan Stadium
Impressions from the Pan-Armenian Games Opening Ceremony and the Armenia vs.
Portugal Soccer Match
By Raffi Wartanian

***

Philatelphia Creative Center in Yerevan, Abovian Helps Disabled Youth
By Zaruhi Shushanian
(Armenian Weekly Yerevan Correspondent)

According to the Republic of Armenia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs,
around 135,000 disabled people live in Armenia. From these, 8,000 are under
the age of 18, and only 8 percent are employed.

The majority live in rather poor social conditions, having almost no
opportunity to pay for their health, education or other needs.

Their integration into mainstream society has become an issue in post-soviet
Armenia, which is on its way to creating a democratic society. Yet, far more
topical is the issue of children with disabilities, who, because of the lack
of awareness and competence of their parents, are isolated from their
contemporaries and society.

The number of NGOs assisting the disabled in Armenia has been increasing.
Established in 2003, the Philatelphia NGO works with about 250 families,
providing educational and psychological assistance to children with
disabilities.

The small center is located in Avan Community in Yerevan. With the help of
professional tutors, students paint, sing, dance, and learn different
handicrafts. Their colorful paintings contrast sharply with the cement walls
of the center, and bring life to the building,

According to Hovhannes Israyelyan, chairman of the NGO, poor conditions do
not matter for the young students nor their professors, who never give up
and keep working.

A.W.-What does the word "philatelphia" mean?

H.I.-The word "philatelphia" in the Bible means fraternal love. There is
another interpretation of the word, which says that there was once a church
named Philatelphia in Israel. The church was blessed by Jesus Christ.

A.W.-Whose initiative was it to open up a center for disabled children?

H.I.-In 2003, together with six volunteers from Yerevan, we decided to open
a cultural, educational and psychological center for children with mental
and physical disabilities. We invited different specialists to cooperate
with us, and, after a day and night of work, we finally succeeded in opening
the center. First, we examined the children’s psychological problems. A
group of psychologists now work with the children and their parents. They
teach our students to work in groups and communicate with each other.

At present, we have courses on painting, ceramics, handicrafts and
computers. Our specialists also help children with their homework. We plan
to invite tutors to help our older students prepare for their entrance
exams.

In August 2006, we opened a branch in the city of Abovian. There, we take
care of about 15 disabled children in need.

A.W.-Tell us about the open-air trips your center organizes for the
children.

H.I.-Every summer we organize excursions to the different sights of Armenia.
This past July, we organized a seven-day trip to Sevan, where the children
passed their summer holidays. It was like a small camp. We organized a
number of cultural and entertaining programs, with the aim of helping the
children get familiarized with national Armenian traditions.

It was there that the idea was born to open a ceramics studio in our center.
Already this September, we are planning to organize the first exhibition of
our students’ ceramic works. In addition to developing their aesthetic
tastes, ceramic art improves their overall agility. It’s worth mentioning
that 15 local organizations and companies sponsored the trip to Sevan, and
helped the children enjoy seven unforgettable days in one of Armenia’s most
picturesque places.

In addition to providing them with a cultural and aesthetic education, we
plan on inviting experts to work with the children. Levon Yazikchian is one
such volunteer from Canada, who will help with project development and
strategic planning.

In the near future, we hope to open job centers in Yerevan and the other
regions for young people with disabilities. Specialists in job training
centers will help them gain the experience in a particular field, for
example in carpet-making or some other craft. (We already have specialists
now that come to our center and teach the children the techniques of
traditional Armenian carpet making.) Our ultimate goal is to create
workplaces for young adults in need, to make it possible for them to become
the breadwinners of their family.

A.W.-Do only children with disabilities turn to your center?

H.I.-Not all the students in Philatelphia are disabled. There are children,
for example, who have problems with their parents or families, and suffer
>From depression or neurosis. In our center, they can always find friends and
a shelter. In turn, the disabled children get a chance to interact with
their contemporaries, and thus feel like full members of mainstream society.

We currently have 50 students in our central office in Yerevan, and about 15
in Abovian. These are mainly children with speech defects. Our specialists
assist many other disabled children who cannot come to our center.

Thanks to the financial support of our benefactors, we have developed a
humanitarian aid program and bought the necessary medical equipment to treat
children in need.

A.W.-Do your specialists also work with the parents? Are there any special
classes for parents with psychological problems?

H.I.- Our organization has created a job center for the parents of our
students, and our psychologists work with the "problematic" parents to help
them resolve family conflicts.

But we are not an orphanage. At night, the children go home, because we
believe that however difficult the situation may be, children prefer to
sleep in their parents’ arms rather than in an institution. Yes, there are
parents who have psychological or physical problems, and they are the most
difficult to work with. Whatever difficult situation they may be facing,
however, the parents do prefer to have their children with them during the
night.

A.W.-Since Philatelphia is a creative center, tell us about the cultural
activities you offer.

H.I.-Together with our close friend the Naregatsi Art Institute (NAI), we
organize various cultural activities for our students. We started our
cooperation with the NAI in 2005.

One of our true friends and sponsors is Kaitsak Palanjian, an Armenian
writer from France. Thanks to his financial support, we managed to organize
several exhibitions-the most recent one was on June 2-of our students’
paintings and crafts in the NAI.

We also have a small choir, which together with the Nota Cultural Center,
periodically gives concerts in the NAI. The children sing Armenian sharakans
and traditional medieval church songs.

The carpet-making classes were the initiative of the NAI, and our childrens’
carpets will likely be exhibited in the institute next year.

It’s worth mentioning that the Avan Community’s ARF Committee "Hamazasp,"
chaired by Hrachya Tadevosian, has supported our center since the day of its
foundation.

A.W.-What projects are you planning to implement in the coming months? What
are your ultimate goals?

H.I.- We’re now working on getting more people and organizations-both abroad
and in Armenia-aware of our work. Our main objective is to strengthen our
ties with the diaspora, and see greater relationships formed between our
students and young diasporan Armenians. Soon we will have our own website
and an online youth magazine.

Our main goal is to create new workplaces for the disabled and their
families. This will help them to feel physically and mentally able, and
useful to their country.

To reach this goal, we plan on recruiting new volunteer specialists. Many
young people have already offered their assistance. What we need is fresh
ideas and a desire to work. We also plan on opening a computer center where
the children will develop the skills necessary in this era of ever-growing
technology. This will make their life easier and will allow them to
communicate with one another. Finally, we are planning to open a drama
group.

A.W.-Many believe that Armenian society is somewhat "closed" to meeting the
needs of the disabled. Has this picture changed recently?

H.I.-The disabled face greater problems and difficulties in Armenia as
compared to any other country in Europe. However, I think that the picture
has changed a lot. The main problem is that the disabled are still isolated
>From the rest of the population, since some parents think that it is better
for their children to stay at home, where they are protected from the
outside world. This is a wrong way of thinking, as it psychologically hurts
the child. I’ve come across children with serious mental distortions that
recovered significantly after communicating with other people their age.

Parents play a crucial role in the treatment process. For this purpose, our
psychologists work with each parent individually. And I think, our efforts
have yielded positive results.

A.W.-Can you envision your students 10 to 15 years from now with a proper
job, fully integrated into society?

H.I.-I can say that most of them are really talented and have great
potential. They see the world in different colors, and their bright
paintings testify to this. They are more sensible and psychologically
stronger than us. They’ve learned to protect themselves from the negative
factors of the outside world. This, I think, will help them in the future to
find their place under the sun, if, of course, they get love and attention.

All I can say about our students is that they have a lot of individuality.
Sowing love and showing a desire to work, we get a positive energy from
these children. They feel they are important, and we feel ourselves blessed
to do something really important. As the great Armenian poet Paruir Sevak
once said, "There is nothing impossible in this world, if there is
kindness."
———————————- ———————

2. Two Stories from the V. Sarksyan Stadium
Impressions from the Pan-Armenian Games Opening Ceremony and the Armenia vs.
Portugal Soccer Match
By Raffi Wartanian

A roaring audience, the emperor’s address, it feels like the Coliseum.

V. Sarksyan stadium saw its share of action this August. On the 18th came
the opening ceremony for the Pan-Armenian Games. Inaugurated in 1999, the
Pan-Armenian Games bring Armenian athletic teams from all over the world to
compete in an array of events. Armenians from San Paulo, Cairo, Jerusalem,
Glendale, Isfahan, Beirut, Geneva, Tiflis, Bucharest, Toronto, Buenos Airs,
Shoushi, Marseilles, Long Beach, Gyumri, Paris, Tehran, Stepanakert, Berlin,
Moscow, Yerevan, Sochi, the Valley, Vanadzor, Istanbul, and many others came
to their homeland to play.

On the walk to the stadium, history and reality escaped my mind. I felt as
if the dream or fantasy or hope or fear of many Armenians had come true:
Armenians from all over the world populated Armenia despite their diasporan
homes, sub-dialects, or divisive distinctions and doubts. The opening
ceremony initiated more than the commencement of our version of the
Olympics, but it revealed Armenia the way it could be-with all Armenians,
Eastern and Western, from the four corners of the earth, living united on
one piece of soil that has always belonged to us.

The opening ceremony had all the glamour and glitz of an Olympics opening
ceremony. Once all of the teams ran onto the field, the eternal flame was
lit, the president spoke and the celebrations began. Hayko, Andre and Tata
were among many musical acts preceding a fireworks display so large it was
sure to catch the attention of the NATO bases overlooking Yerevan from Mt.
Ararat.

Competitions in soccer, badminton, track and field, basketball, table
tennis, chess and swimming entertained crowds and exhausted athletes. The
basketball finals saw Armenians from Glendale square up against Armenians
>From the Russian Black Sea coast town of Sochi. The difference in the style
of play between the two teams reflected characteristics brought from their
respective home nations. The Glendale team emphasized the talent of
individual players, running plays that isolated strong competitors who often
drove to the rim against the stifling Sochi defense. The Glendale team
epitomized American individualism, the "do-it-yourself" approach. Sochi’s
style displayed a more European approach, emphasizing team ball. The
individual worked not to better his own lot, but to forward the group’s
status. Screens, picks and passes got the ball to the open man, and Sochi
converted many easy baskets propelling their team play over the Glendale
glamour ball to a convincing victory.

On Aug. 21 came the long-anticipated soccer bout between Armenian and
Portugal. Fresh off a 1-0 victory over Poland, excitement filled the air and
the prospect of another Armenian victory over a European powerhouse
electrified the audience. Unfortunately, the skill of the soccer players was
unmatched by the organization of the stadium staff. As I approached the
stadium, the hope for a line disappeared in the mob ambushing the stadium
gates. Ticket-holders pushed and elbowed their way through the mass of
bodies clogging the two narrow doorways through the gates into the stadium.
Many slithered under the gate or climbed over the top to escape the madness.
One man suffered a heart attack in the insanity.

Once I bypassed the mob, the stadium roar shook the ground below my feet.
Armenia’s Robert Arzumanyan had scored a head ball in the 12th minute. For
10 minutes, the crowd’s jubilation soared until Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo
neutralized the score. The second half saw some close calls, but no goals.
At the final whistle, the crowd received Armenia’s 1-1 tie with Portugal
like a victory. Though Armenia did not qualify for the 2008 Union of
European Football Associations Tournament (UEFA), the night belonged to the
players and the fans who showed the Portugal powerhouse that our team was no
puppet.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

http://www.ar

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS