Abovyan Child Support Center reopens, paving the way for new opportunities

The cooperation between UNICEF and the Japanese Government will help more than 2,000 children acquire new skills.

Zhanna Ulikhanyan
09 March 2022

Have you ever heard the sound of the Armenian dhol? Have you ever felt the power and energy of this traditional musical instrument? Guest and dignitaries were treated to a special performance by the talented students of Abovyan Child Support Center on February 16, 2022, at the official opening of the center’s renovated and refurbished rooms. The renovations were completed thanks to a generous grant from the Government of Japan.

Girl is playing dhol.
UNICEF Armenia/2022/Galstyan

Guests and dignitaries included Fukushima Masanori, Ambassador of Japan to Armenia; Christine Weigand, UNICEF Representative in Armenia; Gohar Mamikonyan, Head of the Department for Youth Policy and Supplementary and Continuing Education at the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport; Eduard Babayan, Mayor of Abovyan; and Mira Antonyan, Director of FAR Children’s Support Center Foundation.

During and following the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, many families fleeing the conflict zone settled in the city of Abovyan. Since then, there has been a need to strengthen community services to support these families and their children. UNICEF decided to renovate the Abovyan Child Support Center’s rooms, install new windows and a heating system, and provide new and much-needed educational materials

UNICEF Representative in Armenia, Christine Weigand.
UNICEF Armenia/2022/Galstyan

“In any crisis, the most vulnerable, including children, suffer the most. Improving community services for children and adolescents is an important component of UNICEF’s humanitarian assistance in response to COVID-19 and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. These centers provide a safe environment where children can feel protected, receive psychological support, communicate and play with other children, fill the learning gaps, and, of course, receive special professional assistance if needed,”

UNICEF Representative in Armenia, Christine Weigand, said in her remarks.

Eleven-year-old Meline moved from Nagorno Karabakh with her mother, her older sister Karine (18), and her younger brother Sargis (8) during the 2020 conflict. Since moving to Abovyan the center has become a dear and special place for her.

Meline is in the Child Support Center in Abovyan.
UNICEF Armenia/2022/Galstyan

“I come to the center almost every day. As soon as I finish my classes, I rush on over. I attend psychology classes every Friday, which have been very interesting. I also attend puppetry, carpet-weaving, and theater classes. It’s easy to become engaged when you’re surrounded by pleasant people and interesting programs,” Meline said. “My only wish is that there be violin classes here. I attended violin classes back in Nagorno - Karabakh․ Unfortunately, I had to leave my instrument back when we fled,”

she explained.

Milena’s mother, Arevik Gevorgyan, also attended the February 16 event. Arevik is a single mother and has been raising her three young children by herself. According to her, the Abovyan center has significantly helped them adapt to this new and unfamiliar city.

Arevik Gevorgyan with her 2 children.
UNICEF Armenia/2022/Galstyan

“Our situation was dire when we came to Abovyan. The center has been there for us from the very beginning, though. At first, my kids felt lonely. They were cut off from their home in Nagorno - Karabakh; they had no friends here, they were confused and stressed. The instructors worked closely with them and, as a result, they have made new friends, they have new interests, new goals,”

Arevik explained.

According to her, the children spend less time on their phones and are more productive thanks to the center. 

“Since my children come here after school, I have a chance to go to Yerevan and attend sewing classes. Learning this skill will enable me to work and provide for my children,” Arevik concluded.

Ambassador of Japan to Armenia plays with children in Abovyan.
UNICEF Armenia/2022/Galstyan

The children challenge—and beat—Ambassador Fukushima at a game of memory called Matching Game, where you need to match pairs by turn over 2 cards at a time

Artsvik Manukyan (center)—11-year-old Arthur (L) and 8-year-old Armen’s (R) mother—has lived in Abovyan city for many years. 

Artsvik with her 2 children.
UNICEF Armenia/2022/Galstyan

“No matter how tired they are after school, my boys are always enthusiastic to come to the center and actively participate in its programs. I am happy to see my children trying new things and gaining new interests.”

Artsvik explained.

“I learned to play the dhol at the Center. I also love that I can play sports here. Football is my favorite. I hope to be a professional football player one day,” Arthur said. His brother Armen has dreams of his own; he hopes to be a chef in the future. Armen can already prepare a few dishes all by himself. Though the Abovyan Child Support Center does not provide cooking classes, Armen loves participating in a host of other programs there. “I like attending the carpet weaving classes. I also learned to play chess and checkers here. I even beat the Mayor in a game of chess today,” Armen boasted.

2 boys are playing chess in the Abovyan Center.
UNICEF Armenia/2022/Galstyan

Thanks to the Japanese Government’s grant, UNICEF has established or supported child support centers in five of the ten marzes (regions) of Armenia. In addition to this support to Abovyan, UNICEF and its partners, have established centers in Mrgashen, Armavir, Echmiadzin, and Dvin. In total, more than 2,000 children and young people across Armenia have the opportunity to attend these centers in their communities, where they can acquire a number of new skills and discover strengths and abilities that they did not know they had.

Together with partners, UNICEF does its best to provide opportunities to maximize the full potential of every child's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.