PAROS FOUNDATION LAUNCHES PROSPERITY ON THE BORDER INITIATIVE

Dear Friends,
The April military offensive by Azerbaijan proved the need to keep our border communities strong, prosperous and vigilant. The brave people living in these villages are the protectors of our homeland, yet many of these villages lack basic infrastructure making it difficult for families to live and work. Our assessment of several villages in Tavush and Geghagunik border regions identified specific infrastructure, educational, economic development and humanitarian projects. Successful implementation of these projects will lead to increased vitality and opportunity in these villages and will ultimately contribute to our nation’s security.

In 2013, The Paros Foundation launched the “adopt a village” model in Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur. Residents greatly benefited from the renovated medical center, village school, and kindergarten facility. With the addition of our agribusiness project, which provides families with needed infrastructure, livestock, feed and expertise to develop their own successful agribusinesses, villagers were able to further provide for their families, improve the village economy, and develop stronger, deeper roots. This model works!

With your generous support and commitment, The Paros Foundation will invest $75,000-$250,000 in each of several border villages–upwards of $2 million over the next three years. We greatly appreciate contributions in any amount. Invest today and help secure Armenia’s future, strengthen her borders, and build prosperous communities by making your tax-deductible donation today!

The Paros Foundation underwrites 100% of administrative expenses allowing all contributions to be allocated to these projects. Please visit www.parosfoundation.org to view our successfully completed projects in Armenia’s border villages.

ABOUT THE PAROS FOUNDATION

Formally launched in 2006, The Paros Foundation and its staff in Armenia and the United States have earned a reputation as the “go to” organization to oversee small and medium-sized project implementation in Armenia.  Beginning with our support for seven exemplary local non-government organizations working with children, people with disabilities and the arts, the foundation works towards helping build a sustainable and vibrant homeland while improving living conditions for its most vulnerable populations.

With an aggressive goal of identifying, vetting, fundraising for and ultimately implementing 100 special projects, The Paros Foundation launched the Paros 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity in October of 2011 to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.  Following the successful completion of this initiative, the Foundation’s leadership agreed to continue operating via this project-based model of philanthropy, and launched the “Paros Projects for Prosperity.”

To facilitate volunteerism, The Paros Foundation launched its SERVICE Armenia program in 2013. This Armenia-based service program  provides participants an opportunity to travel to, and experience all that Armenia has to offer while helping make a difference.

Donations to The Paros Foundation, a 501(c) 3 organization, are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.  The Foundation underwrites100% of administrative costs allowing all donor contributions to be allocated directly to the projects.

To learn more about the Paros Foundation or its projects or to sponsor a project of the Paros Foundation’s Projects for Prosperity initiative, please visit www.parosfoundation.org or call (310) 400-9061.

Armenian families are still living in containers dating to a 1988 quake

From GlobalPost, August 25, 2016 by Dan Carsen

Back when Armenia was still a Soviet republic, it suffered an earthquake so devastating the USSR actually asked the United States for help.

It was in December 1988. Tens of thousands died and some half a million were left homeless. After local authorities realized how overmatched they were, shipping containers full of relief supplies flooded in.

So, picture desperate families, a harsh Armenian winter, and shipping containers everywhere. An immediate solution presented itself: People moved into the containers. They were better than freezing to death, but not much better. They lacked heating, cooling, plumbing, windows and wiring. Desperate people burned toxic quake debris and trash to cook and keep warm.

The situation was supposed to be temporary. For all its faults, the Soviet Union did provide housing for many. But soon the USSR went the way of so many of its crumbled Armenian buildings. Regional conflicts flared up and new nations struggled to adapt to a completely different economic system. Some of the struggles continue, and today, there are still families living in those same shipping containers.

Armenians call them domiks, Russian for “little houses.” In the hard-hit city of Gyumri alone, roughly 10,000 people — men, women, children, generations — still live in them. The domiks were barely habitable to begin with. Though some have improvised insulation and jerry-rigged wiring, they’re generally worse than they were before. After almost 30 years, they’ve rotted and they’re increasingly unstable.

Life in the domiks today

Only tremendous effort and ingenuity keep the domiks from being fatally cold in winter and ovens in summer.

As I learned through interpreters, many of the domik families share a similar story: High unemployment drove a breadwinner to work abroad, often in Russia, but for reasons X, Y or Z, the money stopped coming. That’s common for many in Armenia, where 30 percent of the population is poor.

Domik resident Melina grew up in and out of orphanages. She and the other residents only wanted their first names used in the story. Melina says she and her two children face a choice between having money for necessities and having their husband and father around. Artyom, a laborer who grew up in a domik, had been working in Russia but came back to his family when that opportunity dried up. Now he can’t find work, and they’re in debt. Melina says they just want their daughters to grow up healthy and have a chance at a comfortable life.

But between the various environmental factors and other symptoms of poverty, “domik kids” are sometimes stunted, often sick, and even more often ostracized at school.

And yet when I visited a cluster of domiks behind a gas station in Gyumri this summer, the families living there welcomed me into their homes.

One reason is that I’m traveling with Vahan Tumasyan. Through the Gyumri-based Shirak Centre aid group, he and others have been bringing domik residents firewood and food and have helped register them with authorities, so they’re officially “people” (with addresses).

There’s no real pattern to where the domiks are, except that they’re generally in undesirable spots, sometimes on land contaminated by defunct Soviet industrial plants. There are single, isolated domiks and there are larger clusters. Regardless, their inhabitants are basically squatters.

All this points to another reason — besides the generally welcoming culture — why we were invited in: When Tumasyan brings outsiders through, the domik families know they might get a new apartment.

“Twenty-eight years later the shipping containers have rotted, and they’re just awful, awful living conditions, especially for the children,” says Peter Abajian, director of the Paros Foundation, a small nonprofit working with the Shirak Centre to get the families into better housing. (Full disclosure: Abajian is married to my wife’s cousin.)

“Their parents have lived in them first and grown up in them,” he says. “And now these children are living in them. These kids have sort of lost track of what a normal life should be.”

The nonprofit partnership provides the money and paperwork needed to get families who sign agreements and meet other criteria into decent apartments. The groups also tear down vacant domiks, providing work, distributing salvageable materials and firewood, and improving the neighborhoods.

But even as Abajian hustles to raise funds from the Armenian diaspora, the numbers are daunting: It costs roughly $20,000 to move a family from a domik to an apartment. Do the math, and that’s a $50 million problem in Gyumri alone, far more than the nonprofits take in.

So the Paros Foundation is trying something else, too, with an eye toward the long term.

‘Looking forward’

“The domik kids don’t need arts and crafts,” Abajian says. “They need a meal so they can think, so they’re not starving, so they can do some homework.”

They need other things too, which is why the Paros Foundation created Debi Arach — “moving forward” in Armenian, a year-old youth center in Gyumri meant to improve domik kids’ prospects through a holistic approach. It serves a total of 140 kids aged 6 to 17 in two groups that each come three times a week.

Housed in a rental building that used to be a restaurant and hotel, Debi Arach has computers, classes to reinforce school lessons, and vocational training. As Armenia modernizes, demand for IT experts is outpacing supply. Much of the training at Debi Arach is geared toward computer careers. “The promise is it will get you to a level where you’ll take care of your family, you’ll be able to rent a home and live a normal life here in Gyumri,” Abajian says.

In addition to its eight teachers, the center has a nurse, a psychologist, and maybe most importantly, places where kids can safely bathe and eat healthy food.

When the center started serving meals last year, Abajian says, students didn’t touch the salad. “It turns out they didn’t know what it was. They know bread. They also didn’t know how to sit at a table and eat together, so the teachers sat with them and created this family atmosphere they don’t have in the domiks. And most of them didn’t know how to use the bathrooms because a lot of their schools don’t have bathrooms either.”

Another thing domik kids lack is private space.

“So we’ve made sure that each kid has a locker here,” Abajian says. “They can store clean shoes to wear when they come. We’ve provided summer shoes and winter boots to make getting here easier.”

At the end of a long day of renovations on the building and coordinating a visit from an American student service group, I ask Abajian why he does this.

“It’s the kids, absolutely. We have to try to save them.”

SUPPORT OUR HEROES-ARTSAKH UPDATE

Dear friends,

I am writing to update you on the situation in Armenia and Artsakh.

As of today, 86 people have lost their lives as a result of Azerbaijan’s aggressive and calculated military attack along the Nagorno Karabakh-Azerbaijan line of contact, April 2nd to the 5th. The current situation is tense, but stable. A cease-fire is in place, but the Azeris are still shooting with various caliber weapons every evening.  On April 3rd, in response to numerous inquiries from donors and friends, The Paros Foundation launched a Hero Support Fund to raise funds and provide them to families of our deceased Heroes.

Our goal remains to provide a minimum of $1,000 to each family of our Heroes. Armenians from 18 countries around the world (including Armenia, Australia, Austria  Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Egypt, Rep. of Georgia, Germany, Italy, Qatar, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the US)  have come together to support the families of our Heroes. Currently, we have raised almost $50,000 which will support 50 families. Funds will be distributed to the grieving families of our Heroes beginning in the next two weeks.  I am departing for Armenia soon to personally begin the process of delivering funds to our Heroes’ families.

I would like to offer a very special thank you to Mr. Serj Tankian who has assisted with raising awareness regarding our efforts to bring a bit of relief to the families of our Heroes, along with the many other people who are also working towards this important goal.  We are humbled to be serving as a conduit to support the families of our Heroes. As with any of our projects, 100% of your donation will be used to support this project without any administrative costs.

Help us keep this effort strong until we have raised enough funds to provide each family with $1,000. We thank all of you who have already contributed.

We must mobilize and do what we can to stand in solidarity with the families of our Heroes, who have died defending their Nation. While these funds will not completely address this tragic loss of life, nor ease the grief of our Hero families, it will provide them a bit of relief during these difficult times and show them that the world cares about them.

Thank you and please contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Peter J. Abajian
Executive Director

SERVICE ARMENIA CONTINUES WORK AT HATSIK VILLAGE SCHOOL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYHIRfTTSC0

Armavir Region, Armenia—Building upon its 2013 successes, The Paros Foundation’s SERVICE Armenia 2014 group continued renovation of the Hatsik village school. With the generous support of donors and SERVICE Armenia volunteers, five additional classrooms, the corridor and one additional restroom were renovated during summer 2014. Five classrooms and two restrooms at the school had previously undergone renovation during the 2013 SERVICE Armenia program.  Hatsik school renovation is one of the Paros Foundation’s 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity, an initiative aimed at commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by implementing 100 special projects in the homeland. To date 76 projects have been funded of which 56 are complete since the fall of 2012.

The upgrades to the classrooms include new doors and windows, laminate and tile flooring, chalkboards, window blinds, electrical upgrades and renovated desks. The Paros Foundation underwrites all administrative expenses allowing 100% of donor contributions to go directly to this project. The local Hatsik community has joined the effort by providing volunteer labor and as well as contributing financially to the purchase of window treatments and electrical materials.

“We are actively seeking a donor or donors to sponsor the renovation of the school gymnasium which would complete the final phase of the Hatsik School,” said Peter Abajian, Paros Foundation Executive Director. “We are hoping to raise these funds in time to complete the gym during our SERVICE Armenia 2015 program this summer.”

The Paros Foundation established SERVICE Armenia to provide young people between the ages of 16 and 24 with the opportunity to experience Armenia in a positive, productive, and fun way. Participants spend one month working on a variety of projects and touring Armenia and Artsakh, while developing life long friendships. Applications for this summer’s program are currently available.

To participate in SERVICE Armenia, to sponsor the Hatsik gym or other projects, please visit www.parosfoundation.org.

About The Paros Foundation

To honor the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, The Paros Foundation launched The Paros 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity initiative in the fall of 2011 to benefit Armenia and her people. 100 pre-screened projects in the areas of development, education, cultural and humanitarian will be implemented to help make Armenia stronger and improve the lives of her people.

Donations to The Paros Foundation, a 501(c) 3 organization, are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. To find out how you can sponsor a project and for more information about how to get involved, please visit www.parosfoundation.org or call (310) 400-9061.

Formally launched in 2006, The Paros Foundation supports six exemplary local NGOs in Armenia and launched the Paros 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity in October of 2011 to commemorate the upcoming centennial of the Armenian Genocide. With an aggressive goal of identifying, vetting, fundraising for and ultimately implementing 100 special projects, The Paros Foundation and its staff in Armenia and the United States are quickly earning a reputation as the “go to” organization to oversee small and medium-sized project implementation in Armenia.

To sponsor a project of the Paros Foundation’s 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity, please visit www.parosfoundation.org.

2013 Annual Report

SISIAN ART SCHOOL STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM NEW KILNS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWew6sRdpoc

The 90 students and staff at the Sisian Art School in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor Region dreamt of having a kiln to fire their ceramics work. However, the school lacked the financial resources to purchase the kiln. Through the efforts of Dr. Anahid Yeremian, a physicist at Stanford University, The Stanford University Armenian Student Association (ASA), and The Paros Foundation, the funds were raised and two new kilns were manufactured in Armenia and installed at the school.

Dr. Yeremian, who championed this cause, first visited the school in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor Region on the way to the village of Vaghatin as part of the Stanford University ASA’s humanitarian effort, ACT for Armenia. Dr. Yeremian was so impressed with the talent and passion of the school’s students and teachers, that upon her return, she encouraged her family and friends and the Stanford University ASA to help raise funds for the kiln.

“Through the Paros Foundation, I continued raising funds from my friends and relatives. Paros was able to complete this project quickly, efficiently and at a much lower cost than I anticipated. Paros Foundation staff identified the right kilns and oversaw their delivery and installation at the school,” said Dr. Yeremian.

The Paros Foundation underwrote 100% of administrative expenses related to this project, which allowed all donor contributions to go directly to the purchase and installation of the kilns.

About The Paros Foundation

To honor the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, The Paros Foundation launched The Paros 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity initiative in the fall of 2011 to benefit Armenia and her people. 100 pre-screened projects in the areas of development, education, cultural and humanitarian will be implemented to help make Armenia stronger and improve the lives of her people.

Officially launched in 2006, The Paros Foundation continues to support six organizations in Armenia (The Paros Chamber Choir (www.paros.am), Unison NGO (www.unison.am), Vanadzor Arts School (www.vanadzormusic.org), Manana Youth Center (www.mananayouth.org), Vanadzor Museum of Fine Art (www.vanart.org) and the Ghoghanj Children’s Center (www.childrenscenter.am).) These organizations serve as leaders in their respective fields of children, people with disabilities and the arts. Foundation support often comes in the form of organizational operating funds, office space and organizational resources, and mentoring. The mission is to help these organizations and their leaders to attract financial, human, and physical resources to their respective causes.

The Paros Foundation underwrites all administrative expenses allowing 100% of donor contributions to go directly to the projects. Donations to The Paros Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

To sponsor a project of the Paros Foundation’s 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity, please visit  www.parosfoundation.org.

An Article by “The Armenian Mirror-Spectator”: Bay Area Paros Committee Holds Benefit for Kurtan Village Medical Center

Hatsik School Children Begin School Year in Newly Renovated Facilities

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wSdWqd5Kjk

Paros Coverage in Massis Post

A new project with United Nations Democracy Fund

Manana Center started a two-year project of Creating a Network of Young Reporters in Armenia with support of The United Nations Democracy Fund.

During the project media workshops for youngsters on journalism, photojournalism and filmmaking will be organized in different regions of Armenia. Participants, under the supervision of expert tutors, will produce alternative content through multiple platforms, including a series of articles, films, interviews, multimedia outputs documenting real-life stories experienced by local communities, through photo exhibitions, film screenings and magazines, and also through internet.

The project aims to empower young people through the enhancement of media skills which will raise the level of participation in civic life and the formulation of a democratic society.

SHARE-A-PAIR COMPLETES SUCCESSFUL DISTRIBUTION OF 25,000 SHOES TO ARMENIAN CHILDREN

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_17oYhBSrP0

YEREVAN, Armenia–Share-a-Pair, part of The Paros Foundation’s 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity, has successfully distributed more than 25,000 pairs of new shoes to Armenia’s most needy children.

Thanks to the support of generous sponsors and a major U.S. shoe manufacturer, The Paros Foundation staff and its volunteers and non-governmental organization partners, coordinated the effort to distribute shoes to children in need. Shoes were distributed to children in 11 orphanages, 8 boarding schools, 12 NGOs, and in14 cities and more than 100 villages throughout Armenia. Volunteers from Armenia, Sweden and the United States joined together in this ambitious distribution effort.

“Share-a-Pair embarked on the daunting task of putting shoes on the feet of children in Armenia’s most isolated and economically challenged villages and regions.” Said Peter Abajian, Executive Director of The Paros Foundation. “Paros Foundation Staff and volunteers visited more than 100 villages using kindergartens and schools as distribution points within a 3-month period.”

“Working to get shoes to children in the villages was exhausting.” Said Kristen Abajian, co-founder of Share-a-Pair. “Long drives on terrible roads, beautiful scenery and difficult conditions in the villages made this experience an emotional one for all of us. Seeing happy children and smiling faces made it all worth while.”

The Paros Foundation has produced a short nine-minute video featuring the shoe distribution process and some of the beneficiaries. The video is available by calling (310) 400-9061, or can be found on the Foundation’s website www.paros-foundation.org, facebook page or on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_17oYhBSrP0).

“When we started Share-a-Pair 18 months ago, our goal was clear and within reach—put 1,000 pairs of new shoes on the feet of needy Armenian children. I am so thankful that with the support of a selfless group of volunteers and donors, we were able to not only reach, but also far exceed our original goal. Now our focus shifts to warm winter boots,” said co-founder Bridget Abajian.

The Share-a-Pair team has now launched an effort to put warm winter boots on the feet of Armenia’s needy children called “Operation Winter Boots.” Donations are welcome in any amount, and a $20 donation will ensure a child’s feet stay warm in Armenia this winter.

The Paros Foundation was formally launched in 2006 and is based in Berkeley, California. Its Chairman, Roger Strauch, and Executive Director, Peter Abajian, have a long history of working with Armenia and the Armenian-American community to support Armenia’s rich culture and heritage, improve the lives of people with disabilities and to create positive opportunities for Armenia’s children. In 2011, The Paros Foundation launched its Paros 100 for 100, Projects for Prosperity initiative to properly commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide through the implementation of 100 special projects benefiting Armenia and her people. The Paros Foundation is not affiliated with the Ghazarian family’s Paros “Lighthouse” Charitable Foundation.

For more information and to get involved, please visit www.paros-foundation.org.

MIA (AGE 5!) TEAMS UP WITH SHARE-A-PAIR AND THE PAROS 100 FOR 100 TO DELIVER WINTER BOOTS TO ARMENIA’S VULNERABLE CHILDREN

White Lake Township, MI—A Barbie, a new shiny bike or perhaps even a puppy… these are the types of gifts one would expect a four year old to ask for on her fifth birthday. Not Mia! This Michigan based young lady can teach many of us about the spirit of giving. She decided that for her 5TH birthday, she wanted all of her friends and family to come to her party and bring a new pair of winter boots for needy children in Armenia.

“I saw a little girl on TV that decided to deliver boots to an orphanage. I thought maybe I could do that because we both have lots of stuff already,” said Mia.

Her mom, Debbie Dalbis, contacted the Detroit Chapter of share-a-pair, a project of The Paros Foundation to see if Mia’s wish could be fulfilled and the boots that she was aiming to collect actually get onto the feet of needy children in Armenia. On May 19th, family and friends gathered to celebrate Mia’s 5th birthday. The net result is this special five year-old’s wish came true. This winter, almost 200 children (that is 400 feet!) will have warm and dry feet thanks to Mia’s selflessness, her mom’s commitment to her community, and the generosity of Mia’s family and friends.

“Mia is an incredible little girl and with the support of her family, has done an incredible thing. “Said Peter Abajian, Executive Director of The Paros Foundation. “We will ship these new boots to Armenia and distribute them to vulnerable children this fall so they can wear the boots this winter.”

Share-a-pair has distributed more than 12,600 pairs of shoes to vulnerable children in Armenia. Distributions will continue through the month of July during a regional distribution campaign, during which an additional 12,200 pair will put on the feet of children in need. Share-a-pair was started in 2010 with a fixed goal of collecting and distributing 1,000 pairs for Armenia’s children. It has since met the initial goal and has grown into a substantial humanitarian effort.

Formally launched in 2006, The Paros Foundation’s goal is to develop high-quality, high-integrity non-governmental organizations in Armenia by providing guidance and needed resources. This includes providing inspiring office space; free of charge, to three of the six organizations The Foundation works with in Armenia. To honor the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, The Paros Foundation launched The Paros 100 for 100, Projects for Prosperity program to implement 100 special projects, to help grow Armenia stronger and improve the lives of her people. For more information on The Paros Foundation or the Paros 100 for 100 Projects for Prosperity visit www.paros-foundation.org/.