In May, 2013, I had the great pleasure of traveling to Armenia and spending 9 days in Yerevan where I spent an intensive amount of time with the 15 young women that now call the Nakashian Children's Support Center their home. I arrived on a Thursday evening, having flown from LA via Moscow on Aeroflot Airlines. That trip was the first time since 1971 that I had flown on Aeroflot, having been to Armenia four times previous to this visit. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the flights were!
On Friday, after settling into my apartment for the week's stay, I went to the Center to meet the staff and girls. That evening, we traveled to Etchmiadzin, where the center of the Armenian Church is located, to attend evening services at the Cathedral and then have a short audience with his Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians.
Our girls have been fortunate to have been embraced by His Holiness since December 2012, when he first met them. They see His Holiness regularly now, and he has become a patriarchal figure in their lives. I was so happy to see how comfortable they were in his presence, and how committed he was to help motivate them to educate themselves and become strong independent young women.
I had the opportunity during my stay to meet with our staff and many of our partners who are providing services for the girls, including representatives of the United States Peace Corps, Women's Resource Center, and Focus on Children Now. In addition to collaborating with the Peace Corps to provide tutors for English language, FCN has also been very generous in providing clothing and other needed supplies for the Center. Those of my readers who live in in Southern California can help make a difference by taking your old clothing and unwanted household furniture and appliances to the Opportunity Store in Granada Hills or Van Nuys. By supporting FCN we are supporting the very deserving children of Armenia!
Another highlight of my visit was the field trip that our board from House of Hope - Mer Hooys, Inc. hosted for the girls and our executive staff. SIMA Tours arranged for a wonderful day on Sunday, where we traveled in a comfortable bus an hour from Yerevan, to Arch of Charents, Keghart Monastery and the Roman style Temple in Garni. We attending Divine Liturgy at the Monastery, and then had a delicious grilled lunch at a nearby restaurant, overlooking the mountains surrounding the Monastery.
On my last evening in Yerevan, I hosted a pizza party for our girls. We were happy to welcome our Peace Corps volunteers, Susanna Gevorkyan from SIMA Tours, and Melanie Nakashian, granddaughter of the benefactors of our Center. I presented a handmade bracelet to each girl, which had a small silver pendant with the word "Hooys" on it. Our girls were delighted to receive this, and I'm told that, even today, they do not take off the bracelet - they wear it to bed and all day long! Thank you to Karen Hazarian for designing and making all of these beautiful bracelets for our girls!
As I left Armenia on June 1, 2013, I was filled with joy that we had accomplished the first phase of our mission by providing 15 girls with a safe home and the resources to improve the quality of their lives. They have come from some very difficult backgrounds, but they are safe and secure with us, and together we will take them down the path toward faith-based independent and productive lives.
God Bless each one of them.