At the Zangakatun Center in Vanadzor, all children are loved equally
VANADZOR, LORI PROVINCE, ARMENIA – Ten-year-old Maria is an only child. She has been visiting the Zangakatun Center for a year now. There she receives a hot meal every day, plays with boys and girls her age, and draws. “But most of all I love working with clay,” she said. “I love it here. My mom doesn’t have a job. My dad is in Russia,” the girl added, as she painted a piece of pottery.
At the Zangakatun Center in Vanadzor, Maria and five dozen other schoolchildren are not only fed properly, but also receive the educational, spiritual, emotional, and other kinds of support all the children in the world need – thanks to the Tufenkian Foundation’s “Our Duty to Live” project.
Armenuhi Kirkitian, a mother of three, is very pleased. Were it not for the familial warmth of Zangakatun, life would be a lot tougher for the young woman. “My husband is in prison in Russia. Since last August my three children, ages 12, 11, and 10, have attended this center. Social workers came to our home and became familiar with our circumstances. I am very grateful. My children do not go hungry,” she said.
The director of Zangakatun NGO, Karine Grigorian, said one of the most important kinds of assistance the center provides is hot food.
The children smile
Mrs. Grigorian cited an Armenian spiritual leader who had said, “Wretched is the child who is not loved and the adult for whom no one prays.” “In our center, all the children are loved,” she said.
During the presentation, a short but moving film about underprivileged children was shown. Mrs. Grigrian and Margaret Hovhannisyan, the director of the Tufenkian Charitable Foundation in Armenia, spoke about the “Our Duty to Live” project and the success of the Vanadzor center. In the end, the children presented a comedy to their parents and the guests.
Families that owe money for bread
Children come to Zangakatun after school. The children are selected in cooperation with the local authorities in Vanadzor and with the help of nongovernmental organizations. Only families with school-aged children can enroll, since Zangakatun is an educational center. “There have been cases when our workers have visited stores, collected the names of families that owe money for bread, and selected children in this way,” Mrs. Grigorian says.
There are also criteria for being taken out of the program. The first is an improvement in the family’s situation. There are families that have been in the program for three years but the administration of the center is not rushing to remove them because the families are not yet on solid footing.
“We have each family’s history, and twice a year we review and reevaluate those histories,” she says.
One of three centers
“Over the past eight years, these three educational centers in Yerevan, Metsamor, and Vanadzor have served about 900 families or 1,850 poor, orphaned, and otherwise vulnerable children,” Ms. Hovhannisian said.
In three small hearths full of family warmth and mutual love, one of which is Zangakatun, through the benevolence of the Tufenkian Foundation and the caring of the educators, everything possible is done to bring back the smile of childhood, and harmony to their families.