A Gift to Armenia's Future
|March 31, 2006
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Yerevan, Armenia — For 14-year-old Mariam Khachaturova, Orran is a second home, a place where dreams come true. “I attend Special School No. 5 in Yerevan,” Mariam said. “Every day after school, I rush to Orran with my cousin, Anya. If I miss even one day, I feel sad. Here, I can be myself, and I can learn new, interesting things. Today I have computer and English. My favorite class is English,” she added, smiling.
The Orran Benevolent Non-Governmental Organization (orran means “cradle” in Armenian) was founded in Yerevan in 2000 by political leader Raffi Hovhannisyan, who is from the Fresno area, and his wife, Armine, in order to help prevent the spread of destitution and begging among Armenia’s children and elderly. Their mission of helping families in need is overseen by a professional staff and several volunteers, and is supported by individual donations.
“Here at Orran, we address the educational, social, psychological, and medical needs of children from families living in extreme poverty or who have special problems,” explained Heriknaz Harutyunyan, executive director of Orran. “We also assist needy old people who have no family, and are alone in the world.”
Since 2000, Orran has become a hearth, a kindred home for children like Mariam. Here, children feel loved, protected, and safe. “Until four years ago, I lived in different orphanages with my brother,” Mariam said. “Then, my aunt, Janna, took us to stay with her in her home. My father is in Yerevan, but he never comes to see us. My mother had serious vision problems. They say one night she wandered into the street, and might have been hit by a car. We don’t know if she is alive or not.
“At home, I help my aunt with the dishes, and washing clothes. I don’t go down into the courtyard to play very often. I prefer reading a good book. I also like to paint, and write poetry and compositions. Most of all, I want to be an actress. At Orran, I get a chance to do all these things. For New Year’s, we had a play where we had to make a sad king happy, so spring would come. I played the part of one of the clowns who made the king happy.”
Surprise donation brightens Easter holiday
At Orran, two seminarians from the Gevorgyan Jemaran at Echmiadzin, Artur Mkitaryan and Arsen Maroukyan, assist in religious education and in organizing events for church holidays. For the Armenian Church holiday “Drntez,” the two students helped the children of Orran present a play about the coming of spring and the custom of bringing fire to Christ forty days after His birth.
“We were all happy when Mariam was chosen as best actress in the play,” Heriknaz Harutyunyan said. “Then, Arsen and Artur wanted to organize something special for Easter. One day, we received a phone call from the Fresno-based Armenian Technology Group office in Yerevan. They said they had 540 kilograms of raisins for us. It was a great surprise, a gift from God, something symbolic. This brought the Homeland, the Church, and the Armenian Diaspora closer together.”
For Mariam, receiving the raisins from Fresno was a special treat. “I love eating sweets. I had almost finished eating our raisins when my aunt saved enough to add to our Easter pilaf,” she said, laughing.
At Orran, plans are being made to send Mariam to a theatrical institute to learn to be an actress. “We all love Mariam,” Orran’s director stated. “We want the best for her, and we know this is what she wants.”
Outside, Mariam sat in a car, next to Orran’s physician. Mariam, who has vision problems, smiled as they drove off to purchase new glasses — a gift from Orran to Mariam, and to Armenia’s future.
To contact Orran, please e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about how you can help Armenia’s farmers, contact the ATG office at (559) 224-1000 or by e-mail (email@example.com). Tax-deductible donations can be sent to ATG; 1300 E. Shaw, Suite 149; P.O.Box 5969; Fresno, CA 93755-5969.