Friday, July 20, 2012

Pilgrimage to Armenia 2012 - Part 3



Advisory board member and long-time friend to Mer Hooys (and me!) Debbie Derderian generously donated and brought with her several suitcases filled with craft materials.  At one point or another during the time we were there, everyone joined in with the girls to create painted crosses, pictures, woven jewelry, and, following a short Bible lesson from Fr. Avedis, prayer books.

Benefactor of craft items/advisory board member
Debbie Derderian with Hasmik

Father Avedis and Debbie giving a Bible lesson
before making prayer books 
Bishop Moushegh, Liaison from the Mother Church
with Adrienne, Fr. Avedis, and two of our girls

Kathleen and Rose - not to be left out of the fun!
Christine working with one of the girls
Danielle teaching "Patty-Cake"
The joy on this little girl's face says it all!
New Mer Hooys "sisters"

Taking a break from playtime with crafts, our ladies went upstairs to unpack, sort and inventory the several huge suitcases of clothing we brought with us, including brand new jeans, jackets and tops donated by supporters Greg and Seta Tcherkoyan, and clothing from Focus on Children Now (FCN) and its Opportunity Shop in Reseda and Granada Hills, California.  Thank you ladies!!

Not to be outdone, our men did not remain idle – they moved furniture and helped organize the bedroom furniture, and supervised the rest of the “workers” when they were not laboring.
Chris, Shant and Dn. Jeff

We enjoyed lunch of pizza, lahmajoon, and drinks with our girls – more than 30 boxes of pizza disappeared as fast as it was delivered!

Finally, after a group picture with the girls, and emotional goodbyes between our girls and our young pilgrims, we headed off in our bus – some of the group went to the Cognac Factory for a tour and tasting, and others went to relax and ready themselves for an evening of fun!


On June 30, 2012, we traveled again as a group to Mer Hooys, where we participated in the official opening ceremony and house blessing of the Nakashian Children’s Support Center and the kick-off to the Mer Hooys program.  More than 120 people attended the event, including Lynn Nakashian, daughter of the benefactors of the Center, and dignitaries from the Armenian and U.S. government.  I was particularly happy to welcome Sister Arousiag as our guest.  Mer Hooys supporter Karen Hazarian made some beautiful copper pendants for the girls with the word “Hooys” embossed on the front.  We presented one to each of the 20 girls.  At the end of the evening, the girls attached paper angels with their hopes and dreams written on them to a large bunch of colorful balloons.  With the help of Director Mihran, they let the balloons go, soaring up to the sky – it was a fitting ending to a wonderful and uplifting evening!

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Me, Mihran, Dn. Barlow, Srpazan Moushegh
Blessing of the Bread and Salt
Bread, Salt, and Hooys Pendants for our girls
Thank you Karen Hazarian for making the pendants
Sister Arousig and Lisa K.
Representatives of Jinishian Memorial Fund with
Friend of Mer Hooys Sarkis Bedevian
Micah, Maggie, Christine, Harriet and Ruth Bedevian
Balloons lift into the sky with messages of HOPE!

Our girls had fun at the opening too!
Srpazan and Dn. Barlow
This picture says it all for me ...


On July 1, 2012, I hosted dinner at Anteb Restaurant, around the corner from the condo we were staying at, for our dedicated Mer Hooys team, including Bishop Moushegh, the Hazarians, Lisa K., Barlow, Father Avedis, Mihran, and Debbie D.  Some of the group returned to our condo to enjoy a shot of Areni VODKA (more like ROT-GUT!) and reflect on the past week.

Of course, no trip to Armenia is complete (for me) without a stop at Grand Candy.  We made that stop on the last day of the group's visit after our visit to the Armen Carpet Factory, and weighed down our little van with Kilos of candy - to the point we almost had to get out and push!  This picture is BEFORE we bought out the store!

The following day, Fr. Avedis, Barlow, Lynn N., and I met with Mihran and various organizations including the Peace Corps and Word Vision to discuss the Mer Hooys program and scheduling.  While it was a VERY long day, it was incredibly productive.


Our celebratory goodbye dinner was at Parvana restaurant in the Yerevan Gorge – a huge outdoor restaurant with music, entertainment, and lavash bread made every minute – all you could eat!  Everyone danced – even in the rain – ate amazing food and fresh bread and celebrated an amazing journey with an amazing group of friends.

Fresh Bread - All night long!
Rose and Kathleen
Barlow and  Rose
Dani and Nick
Rachel and Dani
Debbie and Juliette
Dn. Jeff and Karen (aka Giggles 1)
Juliette and Aida
Sisters Margarite and Kathleen
John and Liz
Patriarch Chris - Toasting to a wonderful Pilgrimage!
Jacob and Margaret - the Dynamic Duo!
Yaldezian/Phillips Clan
Yaldezian Clan 
Shirley and Rose
Debbie, Maggie and Lisa
Margaret and Lynn
Gohar - our guide
We need to find her a husband!

THANK YOU to all of our pilgrims, Fr. Avedis, Shake Derderian, Barlow, Lisa and our team in Armenia for making the two week visit to Armenia in June/July 2012 a memorable one for everyone, including 20 very special young ladies who will soon call Mer Hooys their home!

Until we meet again ...

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