FAR for Artsakh
FAR was a leader in the humanitarian effort to help those displaced by the Artsakh War of 2020. Forced to flee their homes, their jobs, and their livelihoods, thousands needed shelter, warmth, and food. FAR addressed these needs by distributing food and hygiene packages to the displaced and through shelter provision. Soon after the fighting came to an end, immediate difficulties were compounded by long-term needs.
For those unable to return to Artsakh, there were the questions of how to find housing, how to access healthcare for chronic conditions, how to find new ways to earn an income, and how to provide education for children and youth.
After our effective mobilization of resources to meet the most urgent needs, in 2021 FAR initiated several projects aimed at strengthening the long-term resilience and resettlement of Armenians from Artsakh, as well as projects aimed to contribute to building and rebuilding the institutions and resources within Artsakh.
This was the birth of FAR for Artsakh, the organization’s exciting new program, one with a vision of making the lives of Armenians from Artsakh safe, stable, and protected through assistance and empowered through new opportunities.
FAR for Artsakh
For Margarita Alkhasyan, 43, making jingalov hats has not only become her therapy but also her livelihood. Displaced by the Artsakh War, she was looking for a way to escape her residual stress and move forward.
“I was also hoping for something that would allow me to put food on the table,” she said, as she explained why, shortly after finding shelter in Armenia’s Sisian Region, she applied to FAR’s Support for Artsakh’s Displaced project’s business assistance initiative.
To take her mind off of her spiraling thoughts about the war, she started making the Artsakh flatbread specialty in her small oven at home. Now, with FAR’s help, she has established herself as a small business owner and sells her jingalov hats to support her family.
Margarita, her husband Surik, and their five children, Lilit, Gor, Sona, Arman, and Elen left their village in October 2020. Thinking it would be temporary, they took only their identity papers. They then lost their home along with their animals—28 cows, two pigs, seven sheep, and 80 hens—when Azeris occupied the village.
After landing in Sisian, Margarita started to make jingalov hats for her family and neighbors. Since receiving FAR’s grant to launch her small business she was able to purchase a larger oven and other necessary kitchen tools to help it to grow.
“I would like to have a small bakery in the center of Sisian where I could make lavash, khachapuri, and potato pirazhk,” she said.
For now, her assistant is Elen who helps her after school and on weekends. Surik helps her with deliveries. She is trying to get more customers and wants to eventually rent out a separate space for her bakery.
Support for Artsakh’s Displaced
As FAR’s staff assisted many of those expelled by the Artsakh War they saw firsthand the challenges that come with displacement. So many of them needed stable housing. They had lost their sources of income. Their children’s educations had been indefinitely interrupted. With all this lacking, it proved difficult to ground themselves in a new place.
This sparked the launch of Support for Artsakh’s Displaced in March 2021, a project that assists in the resettlement of some of the most vulnerable of the war’s victims through shelter and housing solutions, emergency relief, economic empowerment, education, and healthcare services.
During 2021, the project specifically targeted 130 families who have resettled in the Sisian Region of Armenia’s Syunik Province following their exodus from Artsakh and the November 9th ceasefire. Many lacked basic living standards and have had to grapple with social and cultural integration challenges.
The project also included a training component for local social workers on case management methods in order to better meet the needs of families displaced by war.
During 2021, FAR purchased and renovated six houses in Sisian, which were officially given to six extremely vulnerable families with more than three children (a total of 48 people). FAR also funded renovations, thus creating clean and comfortable living environments for these families.
In addition, 47 other families were also provided with necessary furniture, equipment, and supplies to help alleviate household difficulties. They were also given support packages based on their individual needs, which included assistance to obtain costly medication as well as emergency surgery for children in need.
Young people were connected with scholarship opportunities and after-school activities. FAR provided school supplies to 146 children and clothing to 49 children from the most vulnerable families in order for them to attend school. In addition, children were able to participate in a three-week summer camp program during July.
Nineteen displaced families have received support to create additional sources of income for smoother integration and self-reliance in hosting communities.
Business ideas were also discussed with 10 families, with action plans put in place to implement small entrepreneurial ideas.
Support for Artsakh’s Displaced also provided much-needed medical equipment to 30 village medical centers and rural clinics in the Sisian Region, which are now serving many beneficiaries from Artsakh in addition to their traditional population.
Over 40 community trainings were held on COVID-19, first aid, and child development and behavior, for which about 500 people attended.
Doctors for Artsakh
The Artsakh War of 2020 not only devastated much of what fragile healthcare system had previously existed in Artsakh, but it also fueled an exodus of medical staff from the region. To address this problem, FAR launched the Doctors for Artsakh project in March 2021 with the aims of filling the gaps in medical personnel and revitalizing Artsakh’s healthcare system.
Through the project, leading doctors from Armenia agree to work in various hospitals and clinics on a rotating basis. Doctors have the choice of staying in Artsakh for a duration of anywhere between two weeks and six months. During 2021, 27 doctors, including pediatricians, cardiologists, endocrinologists, and neurologists, were deployed to Artsakh’s Martuni and Martakert regions as well as to the capital, Stepanakert.
Doctors for Artsakh also includes trainings for Artsakh-based healthcare workers through both offline and virtual communication tools, and in-person sessions.
Critically-needed medical equipment and supplies were provided through the project, including 17 oxygen concentrators, 19 infusion pumps, and two portable ultrasound machines, which were given to medical centers in Stepanakert, Martuni, and Martakert. Such equipment is essential after the war shattered Artsakh’s healthcare system and its ability to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
FAR also provided new furniture specially designed to accommodate persons with disabilities to the Caroline Cox Rehabilitation Center—the only rehabilitation in Artsakh—located in Stepanakert.
Social Workers for Artsakh
In the wake of an Artsakh torn apart by war, FAR launched a new project in 2021 aimed to establish a social services system in a place where none previously existed. With many families returning to Artsakh after the ceasefire but with no systematic support network to lean on to help them rebuild their disrupted lives, connect them with resources, and find solutions to their complex problems, this infrastructure was desperately needed.
One of the first steps of the project established a network of competent and qualified social workers. Working closely with the Artsakh government, the project offered training opportunities to enhance and strengthen the skills of social work paraprofessionals so they could learn how to better provide support services to the people of Artsakh.
Twenty-five participants were selected for the nine-month Introduction to Social Work Training Program, which included practical training opportunities and follow-up coursework to enhance their competency in the field. Participants assessed the needs of Artsakh families and ensured that their children’s rights were safeguarded. They then moved on to focusing on issues such as mental health support, domestic abuse, and forced displacement.
Social Workers for Artsakh will ultimately enable more than 500 children and their families who are living in all regions of Artsakh to have the opportunity to receive professional support continuously. At least one social worker will be placed in every Artsakh community in the long-term.
FAR FOR ARTSAKH
By the Numbers
families from Artsakh provided with individual case management and other types of assistance to aid their resettlement (Support for Artsakh’s Displaced)
people were given new homes (Support for Artsakh’s Displaced)
doctors from Armenia deployed to Artsakh to fill the gaps in and strengthen Artsakh’s healthcare system. (Doctors for Artsakh)
paraprofessionals trained to become social workers to help the families of Artsakh (Social Workers for Artsakh)
FAR FOR ARTSAKH
Armenian American Health Professionals-AAHPO
Armenian Church of Holy Martyrs-Women's Guild
Armenian Medical Fund
Edward & Yvonne Korkoian
Estate of Mary Bahadourian
Garen & Lorina Abalian
Harold & Josephine Gulamerian Foundation
Nazarian Family Foundation, Inc.
NY Friends of Tzaghkadzor Refugee Relief
Richard & Sonya Nersessian Babayan
Robert Semonian Trust
St. Gregory of Narek Church
The Tovmas Fund
Theodore & Marianne Hovivian