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Summer interns work at FAR Children's Center

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At the 2010 ACYOA General Assembly, the delegation passed a motion to assist the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR). Since then, the ACYOA Central Council and the FAR Hand in Hand committee have created several programs to assist FAR, including an eight week summer internship at the FAR Children's Center in Yerevan, Armenia. This summer, three members of the Eastern Diocese participated in the internship; Crystal Densmore, Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan and Krista Tyner.

With the help of Birthright Armenia (which partnered with the ACYOA on this new project), the interns moved in with their host families in early June and served in the homeland until the beginning of August. Along with housing accommodations, they were enrolled in Armenian language classes and participated in activities through Birthright Armenia. Through their work at the FAR children’s center, the interns gained knowledge about children and family protection services in Armenia, in addition to hands-on experience in various departments.

The center, founded in 2000 in Yerevan, provides psychological, social, and medical counseling for Armenian children ages 3-18. The FAR Children’s Center is the only institution in Armenia that functions as a crisis intervention and rehabilitation center for children in need.

Crystal Densmore of St. Mesrob Church in Racine, Wisc., taught basic keyboarding and other computer skills to the children at the center, many of which had never used a computer before. “Working at the children's center was an incredible experience. Out of all my volunteer opportunities I have done, none have come close to what I got out of working with the children,” said Densmore. Crystal is a nursing major at Waukesha County Technical College in Wisconsin, and has been a member of the ACYOA for several years.

Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan of St. Mary Church in Washington, D.C., taught music to more than a dozen children aged 5-17. “Although I've taught basic music concepts to young children before, this was my first extended and intimate experience with children,” Khoja-Eynatyan stated. The older children had several private lessons with her every week. She went on to say, “Each of them learned at a very different pace and I learned to adjust my instruction according to each child’s needs.” She is currently studying at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University for a graduate performance degree in percussion, and has already received degrees in percussion and musicology.

Krista Tyner of St. James Church in Evanston, Ill., taught dance to the children at the center. A recent graduate of Loyola University in Chicago, IL with a degree in sociology and minors in psychology and dance, Tyner has been chairperson of her parish’s Senior ACYOA chapter for the past two years. She is a new addition to the St. James Church Choir, and served as a committee member of the Armenian Dance Company of Chicago for the past two years.

The interns were very pleased with their experience, and are proud to make a difference. Khoja-Eynatyan explained, “the experience turned out to be the most rewarding experience of my entire life.” Densmore offered another lesson learned: “These kids are always happy, and seeing their smiling faces tells me that no matter how difficult life can be, you can always be happy.”