Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Armenian Adoption Adventure, Armenia through the eyes of a child

Every evening, Melanie, Margaret, Sevana and I sit down and plan what to do with our Advanced English students the next day. We had already talked about family, school and hygiene with them, and were starting to run out of ideas when Sevana suggested we ask the students what they would change and what they would keep the same if they were president of Armenia. We were worried about whether or not we could help them with political terms or if they would even be interested at all, but the responses we got helped us see the changes needed in Armenia through a child’s eyes and the simplicity of most of their suggested changes showed some of the roots of the troubles Armenia faces.

Many of our students had worries that we would have expected to hear from adults. These children are so much more aware of their surroundings than we had expected. They share the household stress with their parents who are struggling to make ends meet. Hasmik Hovasepyan says, “If I were president of Armenia, I would create more jobs because I want to help people. I shall create more buildings because I want people to have homes.”

Hasmik is 12 years old and has worries that I have never seen in an American preteen, who would have been more worried about the latest video game or trendy outfit.

Trash has never been a problem for us in the two weeks we’ve been in Gyumri because there is a dumpster located about two blocks away from our temporary home and we produce very little trash since we don’t cook our own food and don’t clean much, but our students showed us that trash is a huge problem for Gyumri’s smallest citizens. 13 year old Jenya Hovhannisyan says, “I would create a law forbidding trash cans in the streets.”

While Jenya wanted fewer trash cans, 14 year old Gor Hovhanisyan “would eliminate trash.”

We had seen trash on the streets of Gyumri, but began noticing it more after reading our students’ responses. As Unger Gevorg explained to us, there are no laws about trash on the streets, and people do not care to find a trash can, instead choosing to dump whatever trash they have on the streets.

The innocence of the children really showed in some of their responses. 13 year old Angela Apriyan would “build parks for children and… give money and clothes to orphanages… and establish flowers and trees in streets.”

12 year old Alina Mkhoyan wants to “eliminate criminals” and “have world peace.”

11 year old Marian Nahapetyan would “eliminate money because people commit crimes for money and it is not needed.”

14 year old Andranick Khachatryan “would buy wonderful footballers for our country because today football is not good in Armenia.”

But some of the most memorable responses were the most serious ones. 14 year old Gor Hovhanisyan wants “to help for women and and laws that prevent parents from hitting their children.”

Hearing that from Gor, who is usually bouncing off the walls in our classroom was incredible. It just emphasized the fact that we learn something new about our students every day. I personally had always underestimated him and am sorry it took so long to realize his true colors. 11 year old Roza Simonyan wants “Ararat to be ours again,” but she had trouble explaining how she would reach that goal if she were president.

12 year old Arpi Antanyan “would build skyscrapers and change every building [and] keep the same only the natural beauty of Armenia.”

Like Hasmik and Arpi, many of our students wanted better, newer buildings in Gyumri, which brought to light that over two decades after the 1988 earthquake, there are still buildings that need to be rebuilt and the ones that survived the earthquake are deteriorating over time. Arpi also wants to “create a law about not smoking”

because she wants people to be healthy. In a country where smoking is accepted in almost every location, Arpi’s response gave me hope that there are still those who care about the health and wellness of the people. The final sentence of Arpi’s response was most memorable: “I would beautify my country so well that nobody would want to leave.”

As children of Armenian emigrants, we know that the conditions in Armenia are unbearable for many people, but it was beautiful to see that there are still those who believe that Armenians should stay in Armenia.

At the end of it all, Andranick said it best, “my country Armenia is the best in the world.” It is these children with their big ideas and innocent outlooks on life who will grow up to be the changes that Armenia needs in order to live up to its full potential. I’m so proud that we were able to see the beginnings of it.

With much love and hope,


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Armenian Adoptions, Children of Armenia Fund to have reception in New York, December 13, 2013

The most progressive of Children's funds in Armenia, is hosting their Winter reception in New York on December 13, 2013 at the Ciprini nightclub.  Hollywood Actress Andrea Martin and Actor Victor Garber will host the event.  Please support Children of Armenia fund, it is the only fund that promotes the economy in Armenia and the entire village with building of schools, hospitals, etc., 

Club Cipriani will be the venue for the 10th annual Children of Armenia fund.
The best Children's fund to support the future of Armenia

Children of Armenia Fund Tenth Annual Holiday Gala

Please join the Children of Armenia Fund as we celebrate ten years of accomplishments on Friday, December 13, 2013 at Cipriani 42nd Street. Cocktails & auction start at 7pm, followed by dinner, honors, and performances at 8pm, and a night of dancing at 10pm.

This unforgettable night will feature special guests and talented youth from our community-led programs in Armenia.

Master of Ceremonies Andrea Martin, Emmy & Tony Award Winning Actress.

Please visit www.coafkids.org for more information and to purchase tickets.

Categories: Fundraising & Charity

The Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that uses community-led approaches to reduce rural poverty, with a particular focus on children. Since the inception of its programs in 2004, COAF has funded and implemented education, health, social, and economic development programs serving more than 25,000 people in rural villages of Armenia. Each person impacted represents one of the more than one billion people living in poverty, and the methods used in Armenia can be replicated in other communities, where children are most vulnerable. - See more at: http://www.coafkids.org/#sthash.iI3XO3J3.dpuf


Armenian Adoptions, award winning "Orphans of the Genocide" to air on PBS Miami December 12, 2013

Award winning "Orphans of the Genocide" to show on PBS - WPBT Channel 2 in Miami. 

The awards keep on comming!  Congratulations to director Bared Maronian

This film has made its way to France, Canada, USA and we are working on South America (Argentina and Uruguay version) as well as a huge presentation in Armenia. 

ABREK !!!!


Watch more video from the Top Picks channel on Frequency

Armenian Adoptions, review of the book "Child Catchers"

This saddens all Armenians what is happening especially to our brothers in Ethiopia.  Ethiopians share over 2 centuries of closeness culturally, religiously and even their alphabet was written by the same man "Mashdots" 
The King of Ethiopia in 1923 adopted 40 Armenian Orphans of the Genocide out of Jerusalem.  However, now the tables are turned and Ethiopia is losing their future generation to corruption, it remains open to Americans but Ethiopian adoptions have closed to Canadians and other countries because of corrupt practices in the country. 

In 2009, a van from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, carrying seven young children and babies, was stopped as it drove outside the rural, central Ethiopian town of Shashemene. The children in the van were wards of Better Future Adoption Services (BFAS), a U.S. adoption agency, and had been declared abandoned—their families unknown—in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Police outside Shashemene arrested seven adults riding in the van, including five BFAS employees. The staff, it appeared to some, had sought to process children who had living family as though they had been abandoned in another region of the country, so that their adoptions to the U.S. could proceed more quickly.

At the time, Ethiopia was in the midst of a dramatic international adoption boom, with the number of adoptions to U.S. parents rising from a few hundred per year in 2004 to more than 2,000 five years later, and around 4,000 worldwide.The boom had brought substantial revenue into the country, as agencies and adoptive parents supported newly-established orphanages that became an attractive child care option for poor families; some agencies paid fees to “child finders” locating adoptable children; and the influx of Western adoption tourism brought money that trickled down to hotels, restaurants, taxi-drivers and other service industries.

Also with the boom came early warning signs of adoption fraud and corruption. Before the van was stopped near Shashemene, there had been a glut of abandonment adoptions being processed in Addis Ababa. The number of adoption cases where the parents were said to be unknown had caught the attention of Ethiopia’s First Instance Court, the body responsible for approving international adoptions. The court announced a temporary suspension on processing abandonment cases that originated in the capital until it could investigate further. For some agencies, the news was likely a blow, forecasting long wait times to process adoptions and frustrated clients in the U.S. But there was a way around: the court would continue to hear cases for children abandoned in other parts of Ethiopia.

One of the children transported in the van would later be adopted by a Christian couple just outside Nashville: 31-year-old Jessie Hawkins, a health and wellness author, and her 38-year-old husband, Matthew, a marketing executive. The Hawkinses had chosen BFAS as a protection against corrupt adoptions, assuming that because an Ethiopian woman living in the United States, Agitu Wodajo, ran it, the agency would operate more ethically than those lacking a local connection. Wodajo’s public professions of Christian faith reassured them as well.

Before the children were moved, BFAS notified Hawkins and the adoptive families they were taking the children to a cleaner and safer orphanage. Wodajo later claimed to me that the children were moved not to change their paperwork but because a colleague of a BFAS staffer who wanted to establish his own orphanage had asked to “borrow” some BFAS children to pose as his wards so he could obtain a license. The U.S. families didn’t learn until much later that the party had actually been arrested.

But there were earlier indications that the children’s paperwork at BFAS was a fluid matter. An e-mail from BFAS to U.S. adoptive families that July said that the agency was trying to locate children’s birth families in case the court decree didn’t allow them to be processed as abandoned. “If [the birth families] are willing, your children will be filed for court as a family member relinquishment and not as an abandonment,” the letter read. “So, BFAS is waiting for one of two things. 1) For the court to open their doors to new abandonment cases or 2) For birth families to relinquish the children so we can file immediately.” It seemed like an acknowledgement that the agency would pursue whatever avenue was quickest.

Hawkins herself was told different stories about the daughter she had committed to adopt, a four-year-old girl who had been declared abandoned and whose mother BFAS now said they were trying to find. “This is when I started to get suspicious,” Hawkins told me. “I thought, if you’re so confident she was abandoned, why are you trying to find her birth mother now?” But, she continued, “You get attached to this child and you’re basically at [the agency’s] mercy at this point. You believe these children are abandoned, orphaned, and you’re willing to do whatever or you’ll lose this child and they’ll live there forever.”

In the weeks that passed, while the children were said to be on the road, Hawkins and the other families grew close, comparing stories of what they’d been told. Some parents heard that nannies working at BFAS were in fact the mothers of some children being relinquished for adoption. In emails Wodajo sent to prospective clients, she wrote that they might be able to adopt infants as young as two months old because they were working with pregnant girls. But as rumors spread that their adoptions would be terminated or libel lawsuits filed if they pushed too hard, a hush fell over the group.

When Hawkins was finally called to Ethiopia to finalize her adoption, the BFAS staff there reassured her that her daughter had indeed been abandoned. But after the girl came to the United States she began acting out, behaving violently toward a set of baby dolls she had gotten for Christmas and systematically shattering glasses she found in the kitchen. A few months later, when she had learned some English, the daughter pointed to a picture of the orphanage that Hawkins had taped to her bedroom wall and told her, “When I lived there, I missed my mom.”

Hawkins responded, “‘Honey, that’s nice of you, but you didn’t know me then.’ And then she kind of looks at me like she’s afraid she was going to be in trouble, and you could see her really choosing her words with the little bit of English she had. And she said, ‘You know, I have another mom.’”

“I can’t even begin to put into words what that feels like,” Hawkins told me. “Finding out that you have someone else’s child simply because you happen to have been born in a country where you’re more privileged than they are? You want to throw up, you don’t know what to do.”

When Hawkins called BFAS to present this information, she reached Agitu Wodajo directly. Despite the many reassurances Hawkins had received in the past that the girl was abandoned, she said Wodajo replied without hesitation that yes, she had met the girl’s mother herself.