Monday, July 4, 2011

Armenian Adoption Adventure-COAF has another successful year.

COAF Kids from the Bagramian region

Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) inspired by Dr. Garo Armen, has done a tremendous job of reaching out to the vulnerable poor villages of Armenia. These people have no jobs, no future, no hope. Many leave Armenia for work to Turkey, Russia and Dubai and sadly leave their children in orphanages while they work a job in a country that has low wages or demeans the workers. Lets create jobs and hope for the people of Armenia.
Yerevan - Launched back in June 2006 as part of the Comprehensive Rural Development Program implemented by the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), the Child and Family Services Program has developed far beyond the initial goals of raising public awareness and sensitivities to the rights of children, particularly those with special needs, and the underprivileged and socially disadvantaged groups.
Today, it serves the entire population of the Baghramian Region of Armavir Marz and represents one of the only resource centers providing social work, community education and psychological services in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organizations and key stakeholders in the area of child protection in Armenia. COAF's Child and Family Services Program is also an active member of the National Child Protection Network operating in the country.
By addressing the social repercussions of extreme poverty and providing legal counseling and support to at-risk families, COAF's Child and Family Services Program aims to strengthen the social construct of the rural villages by encouraging attitudes and behaviors that create healthy growth environments for children and empower the most vulnerable villagers. Serob Khachatryan, COAF's Executive Director, highlights the importance of the project with regard to child protection. "Our Child and Family Services Program is an integral part of COAF's mission of affording opportunities to this generation of young Armenians, allowing them to reach their full potential. In this respect, we spare no effort in protecting the rights of the children of Armenia's villages and giving them the opportunity to live and grow in a safe and supportive environment", states Mr. Khachatryan.
In the words of Gayane Asatryan, Child and Family Services Project Coordinator, "The success of this program lies in building the capacity of the rural residents and nurturing collaboration between key stakeholders and local leaders, including the village council and mayor's office. We are proud of what the program has accomplished over the last five years, including combating child abuse, raising general awareness on issues such as human trafficking, gender equality, effective communication and physical and mental disabilities, preventing and addressing incidences of domestic violence and violence in schools and support for the acquisition of birth certificates and other identity documents, pensions and state allowances, cases of alimony, etc. Additionally, we are proud that the program has provided the opportunity for so many resourceful children and young adults to flourish in social environments suitable for self-realization and growth", concludes Ms. Asatryan.
A large component of the program involves social workers such as Ms. Asatryan meeting with individual villagers and small groups to connect them with the resources available to them through the state welfare system and provide other social-legal counseling. Many rural residents are unaware of the social resources available to them as citizens of Armenia and this support can make a tremendous difference in their family's quality of life. In addition, psychologists provide one-on-one and group counseling, hold hands-on trainings and case discussions and conduct weekly workshops for school psychologists.
Through the workshops held by COAF's team of social workers and psychologists over the past few years, community members from the villages of Karakert, Dalarik, Lernagog, Miasnikian, Shenik and Argina have been educated on such topics as stress management, parenting techniques, effective communication, healthy child development, common socioeconomic stressors on children and adolescents, teacher-student relationships, and the importance of creating a nurturing, loving environment for children to grow in.
One of the measurable successes of the program includes a recent decrease in the number of beneficiaries receiving social-legal counseling. As community-wide knowledge improves, more experienced villagers who may have previously received counseling on similar cases share information with their relatives, neighbors and fellow community members and awareness is raised naturally. This social progress is also seen in the intensified sense of community and unity in the villages particularly among the youth, who have recently been taking the initiative to organize cultural festivities and events.
Another important project initiated within the framework of the Child and Family Services Program in June 2009 was the launch of a School-based Psychology Program in the COAF-supported communities and the subsequent training of eight school psychologists in the foundations of child and developmental psychology. Following the trainings, a cluster network of school psychologists was created and has been working together since, with the future goal of expanding the network to the greater region of Armavir Marz.
Marina Bareyan from Karakert and Marine Khachatryan from Dalarik are among the many village residents who have benefited dramatically from the Child and Family Services Program. They were both unemployed back in 2005 but were educated and had been identified as individuals with significant potential to aid in the development of their communities. After receiving hands-on training from COAF's staff and participating in distance learning courses in social work through Yerevan State University, they received certification as social workers and have been actively serving their communities in this function ever since.
Hripsime Karapetyan, a trained psychologist from Karakert is another testimony to COAF's search for talented local individuals and the value they add to their communities when provided with opportunities for development. Creating professional employment opportunities and inspiring confidence in local leaders are minor accomplishments in contrast to the community-wide impact of the social services provided by this program. According to Hripsime, this opportunity has played a significant role in developing her personality, both as an individual and as a professional working with the children and it has also given her a renewed sense of pride and responsibility for her role in the social development of her community
Since July 2010, COAF's Child and Family Services Program has functioned at Les Enfants de J├ęsus Regional Health Care Center in Miasnikian, allowing the group to provide an expanded scope of services and reach a larger number of beneficiary families. At the Center, the visitors have access to a Resource Center where counseling sessions take place and a variety of research materials and specialized literature on child protection, human rights and other related issues are available.
On the threshold of the sixth year of its operations in the Baghramian Region of Armavir Marz, COAF's Child and Family Services Program serves as an unique and exemplary model to be duplicated in the rest of Armenia's rural communities, where provision of such services is rare, but critical to the formation of sustainable rural communities.
The Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) is a non-profit organization, founded in 2000 in New York City that works to secure a brighter future for children in Armenia's impoverished rural villages through improved education, health care, community life and economic conditions. With the introduction of a unique clustering approach in 2004, COAF currently implements a Comprehensive Rural Development Program in ten villages in the Baghramian Region of Armavir marz and two villages in Aragatsotn marz. Over the past six years, more than 22,000 rural residents including 5,000 children from the communities of Argina, Arteni, Baghramian, Dalarik, Hushakert, Lernagog, Karakert, Miasnikian, Shenik and Yervandashat have benefited from COAF's continuous development projects and the improved schools, kindergartens, health clinics, sport complexes, community centers, capacity building trainings and workshops, and business opportunities that have resulted.