HyeSanta Update: Seasonal project turns into year-round activity

Editor’s Note: In keeping with our commitment to show readers how their contributions to our charitable foundation is being managed, we present the following report. ArmeniaNow – and especially the recipients of your generosity – thank its readers and looks forward to future campaigns.

As it prepares for its next charity campaign to be launched in late autumn, ArmeniaNow’s Hye Santa project is pleased to inform its patrons that, in the past eight months, 15 families have received assistance ranging from medicines to blankets and mattresses, to livestock, computers and TV-sets, and worth a total of $12,365 (not including the value of rehabilitative care for Karabakh war survivor Mary Mezhlumyan.)

Many also received continuous assistance from ArmeniaNow office staff and benefactors who responded generously and wholeheartedly from abroad and, most importantly, from within Armenia.

HyeSanta Charitable Foundation Director Armine Petrosyan says the charity has goals that are not limited to satisfying people’s essential needs only (such as food, clothes, fuel).

“It is important that the charity’s activities be aimed at creating an atmosphere of confidence and rehabilitation for the families, showing a proper attitude towards them and establishing continuous friendship with them,” says Petrosyan.

When ArmeniaNow announced its second HyeSanta campaign last December, the first to contribute was Donna Evans, wife of the United States Ambassador to Armenia.

Among the most recent, in what has become a year-round program, was assistance from Armenia’s First Lady, Bella Kocharyan.

Thanks to Ms. Kocharyan’s involvement, Mary Mezhlumyan of Kapan, a victim of bombing during the Karabakh war, and a subject of the first HyeSanta campaign (see Smiling Through Tragedy), is now getting a new leg and arms.

The Medical and Technical Commission of the RA Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is providing Mary with prosthetic appliances free of charge.

An artificial foot was prepared for Mary under Doctor Mkrtich Ginosyan’s supervision, and artificial arms will be prepared for her in October. Further, there are also plans to present to the National Assembly a proposal by photojournalist German Avagyan through cooperation with Red Cross Armenia Chairman Mkhitar Mnatsakanyan to regard war-crippled children (there are about 50 of them living in Armenia and Karabakh today) as war disabled and give them pensions accordingly.

Petrosyan also regards as important HyeSanta’s cooperation with the Armenian Apostolic Church, in particular with the St. Hovhannes Church priest Ter Daniel (see ArmeniaNow’s HyeSanta update of June 10, 2005).

Four children of the Papazyans, subjects of last winter’s HyeSanta project, were baptized in summer.

“I need to consult Ter Daniel,” with these words widow Knarik Gasparyan, 39, who has three children in her care and no job (see A Poet’s Life?), often goes to St. Hovhannes Church with her children before making important decisions.

Petrosyan says one of HyeSanta’s strongest allies has been the Armenia Interchurch Charitable Round Table Foundation of the World Council of Churches.

Responding to ArmeniaNow’s story depicting a gruesome picture in the border village of Barekamavan and with a view to create new interests for the local youths, at HyeSanta’s request the Foundation provided two computers each to Barekamavan and neighboring Berkaber.

Petrosyan says the results exceeded expectations. In particular in Berkaber, due to computer instructor Vladimir Ghazinyan’s effective work, pupils are now using the Word, Excel and Photoshop programs.

Vladimir intends to learn other computer programs to teach them to the pupils. For that purpose, HyeSanta bought five copies of the AutoCAD manual from the Department of Industrial Engineering of the American University of Armenia and for his impressive work Vladimir received a present from the manual’s author Sargis Zeytunyan – a CD with a demo version of the program.

“Vladimir’s dedicated work within just four months shows that properly made investments can produce amazing results that even exceed expectations,” says Petrosyan. “Besides, the reassuring example of Berkaber has become a reliable guarantee of further cooperation between HyeSanta and Round Table.”

Petrosyan says many of HyeSanta’s initiatives would have been impossible without the active assistance and support of other institutional structures.

In particular, the Tufenkian Foundation and its director Margarit Hovhannisyan, was instrumental in providing transportation to deliver a considerable part of the aid to the regions. The foundation also provided expertise through veterinarian Zorik Pambukhchyan who advised HyeSanta in the matter of purchasing cattle for villagers.

“We assisted ArmeniaNow and HyeSanta with great pleasure,” Hovhannisyan said. “One thing that could be done better in some cases is the selection of help for families. In my opinion, some of the families featured in ArmeniaNow stories needed other kind of help, not so much material or financial, as psychological, help that perhaps could be provided through social workers. But I am sure it will come with experience.”

Consultations for HyeSanta were also provided by the NGO Center for Civil Society Development.

The experience of NGOs’ work in Armenia often became a guideline for HyeSanta. Director Margarit Piliposyan’s professional advice also contributed to making proper decisions.

One of the best results of the project, according to its director, was achieved through continuous cooperation with Diaspora Armenians. A woman in New York became acquainted with the Haroyans from Echmiadzin (see Edik and Yura) and long ago grew into friendly relations. Petrosyan thinks the consistent attention of Diaspora Armenians is especially valuable.

French-Armenian Anahit Sargsyan, visiting the Gasparyans made a wonderful practical proposal: she ordered hand-made toys from Knarik for the kids at her kindergarten. This opportunity of dignified earning will grow by the New Year into gifts from Armenia to French-Armenian children.

HyeSanta is also developing a similar project with Egyptian-Armenian Hrair Djeghalian, who responded readily to the charity action at the request of the “Prkutyun” (“Salvation”) charitable union for disabled children. Hrair’s financial contribution made it possible to perform an eye surgery on a child, for which the NGO tried to find financing.

“This way, HyeSanta has become a bridge between its Diaspora readers and Armenian NGOs,” says Petrosyan.

British-Armenian Rouben Galichian, Chairman of Aid Armenia & Executive Trustee of Friends of Armenia, has also volunteered help.

“We have a willingness to help HyeSanta. Our attitude in all projects is as follows: we help people with means to earn their living themselves. Instead of giving a fish we give them a fishing-rod,” says Galichian, adding that they are willing to help communities rather than separate individuals.

However, Petrosyan considers the most important achievement to be the cooperation of readers and TV viewers in Armenia itself.

The responses of both ArmeniaNow readers and Shoghakat TV viewers are appreciable especially by their practical nature.

Pensioner Karine continues to visit the families of the Gasparyans, the Yervandyans and Avetis Khachatryan (Bradyaga), phone and maintains a constant link with them. Enthused by the experience of cooperation with HyeSanta, she is now trying to rally her associates around the charity idea and set up a field for her own activities.

“My friends, who were brilliant professionals in the past and after retiring had no possibility to apply their professional abilities, now understand that one can be useful to people through combined efforts. While working with HyeSanta I learned a lot of things, and I will use all this in the work of our new organization,” she said.

The consistent attention of businessman Mesrop Saroyan, who sponsors the Galajyan family (see Stones For Potatoes), is exemplary. Apart from material assistance, he has given a job to Hamlet at his enterprise, and helped him improve his ruined home.

The interest of students is also inspiring: at a meeting with students held upon the initiative of AUA lecturer Karine Muradyan, after watching the HyeSanta film, a conversation was held around the effectiveness of the Foundation’s work. The suggestions made by the young people were interesting in keeping with the time.

Besides the 12 families featuring in ArmeniaNow’s stories, another three families received assistance.

HyeSanta has helped three young people to become students this year by paying for their fees and facilitating needs connected with their studies. It also helped organize three baptism parties with the assistance of the Church in the person of priest Ter Daniel.

Now Petrosyan says a documentary is being prepared to cover the activities of HyeSanta in 2005. Soon it will be shown on Shoghakat, a TV company that has stood by the project since last December when it showed televised clips about the needy families featured in ArmeniaNow’s special Christmas issue and is also assisting in the preparation of this documentary.

An English-language version of the HyeSanta TV program has been prepared together with Shoghakat. The process of delivering aid was filmed. A summary report about HyeSanta 2005’s work is presently being prepared jointly with Shoghakat.

(ArmeniaNow's 2005 HyeSanta project is now being planned. Meanwhile, contributions are welcomed. Click here.)