A Guiding Light for the Underprivileged -
By Tamar Kabassakalian-Gosdanian
Just one word, yet it means the world to hundreds.
Just one word, yet it emanates warmth and love and reaches out to people who have no hope.
Just one word with 5 letters, just as a hand that picks them up and offers them a happy and healthy environment.
This one word is no other than ORRAN.
Orran is a non-governmental organization sustained by grants and private donations from individuals all over the world. This haven allows beggars on the streets of Yerevan to have hope, to make friends, to have a place to eat and learn in a clean and warm atmosphere.
Behind this humble organization, stand two individuals who care enough to give a helping hand to the ones who have less, or the ones who have nothing. Nothing to live for. Nothing to live with. Nothing. They saw the homeless and recognized the need by creating an organization. These were two individuals who were in love with their homeland and its people and had repatriated as soon as Armenia became independent. Even though they were already busy with their careers and family lives, they were driven by a noble mission. Seeing the underprivileged suffer on the streets of their own country, they accomplished what many thought was almost impossible. They helped the needy by giving them a roof over their heads and a hot meal to eat.
Raffi and Arminé Hovannisian were determined to make a difference in these peoples’ lives. Arminé, co-founder and active board member of Orran, is the strength and voice behind this incredible non-profit organization. Established in 2000, Orran began by feeding a dozen kids from the streets. Today, it offers an extensive after-school program for about 150 children aged between 6 and 16, in Yerevan and in Vanadzor. “But the real heroes,” Mrs. Hovannisian says, “are the children with a determination to have a better life than their parents.” Despite the deprivation they live in, these beneficiaries come to Orran well-presented and well-behaved. They show strength and happiness once they are at Orran. They show hope and witness it on many occasions. Hope that they might be able to lead a “normal” future.
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> Alongside its after-school program, Orran also welcomes the elderly living in poor conditions. Those who are 60 and over, come to Orran during the first half of the day. A doctor is on the premises for emergencies. In addition, they have the opportunity to interact socially and have lunch together.
Orran’s after-school program is also a place that children find refuge instead of engaging in promiscuous behaviour on the streets. The program works in two ways: first, it gives the child a safe place to be fed and to get academic help from specialists; and second, it prevents children from getting into future problems or risky behaviour that could lead to criminal activity.
Orran motivates the children and helps them plan their future by offering vocational training. Thus, each child receives a skill. The children’s afternoon is planned according to their personal road maps and individual schedules that are linked to their class. Once at Orran, they report to class where they must finish their homework with the help of their teacher or a dedicated volounteer. After having a full three-course meal, the children have the choice of four different workshops according to their preferences or skills. These include wood work, pottery, macramé and painting. Orran participates in many exhibitions and showcases the arts and crafts of its students year-round. When an item is sold, the child and the teacher receive part of the profit, and the rest remains in the class fund in order to buy necessary materials. This way, Orran teaches the children to be self-sufficient. Also, with its vocational training program, Orran gives them hope that one day they may sell their own work for a living. As Mrs. Hovannisian says, “we provide children with vocational training so that they learn that they can use their hands to earn their own money and not to extend it to another for help.” After the child graduates, Orran provides grants to those whose business plan is promising. These grants have helped graduates to open their own shops and salons and are proofs of Orran’s munificent work.
Orran also incorporates the love of culture within the children and organizes many different activities and field trips within Armenia. The youngsters regularly visit museums and attend shows. Also, they prepare many performances throughout the year. They have choir and dance practice on a weekly basis.
The magnificent team behind Orran’s success includes: teachers, crafts specialists, a social worker, a psychologist, a doctor, an academic coordinator, an accountant, administrative secretaries, cooks and cleaning staff. All these people work closely together to help the children overcome their problems, fears and academic difficulties. Plus, they are constantly encouraged and empowered to work for a promising future.
As this five-letter name suggests, Orran has stayed true to its meaning in Armenian which is haven. It has been the orran of hundreds and will keep on helping the ones in need on five different levels: academically, psychologically, culturally, socially and artistically.
Note: The next time you visit your homeland, make sure to visit Orran and see a different side of Armenia:
6 First Yekmalyan street, 375002, Yerevan, Armenia.