Eight-year-old Gor Hayrapetyan will proudly talk to you about his paintings that were presented at an exhibition organized this summer by the locally-based Zinvori Mair, or Soldier’s Mother NGO. Five of his works were on display and while those painted by aquarelle were most impressive, Gor said he prefers to draw with markers.

Gor is a beneficiary of Zinvori Mair’s Art Therapy inclusive education program, which has been funded by FAR for the last 20 years, thanks to the help of the late Mr. Armen Bedikian. Originally designed to help children of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the program is now designed to help the children of military parents and those of refugees who have come to Armenia from Syria, Iraq and Ukraine over the past eight years. Many children included in the program struggle with health problems or developmental disabilities.

Gor’s mother Lusine works at the Ministry of Defense. She herself was a beneficiary of the NGO as her father fought in the Karabakh War.

Despite possessing a talent for making beautiful paintings, Gor wants to become a kickboxer—at least that’s what he wants for now. (Last time, he said he wanted to be a judge when he grows up.)

“I don’t push him for now, and I leave him to dream and do whatever pleases his heart but I would like him to continue painting as the results are very good,” said Lusine.
Zinvori Mair, which is based in Yerevan, organizes regular painting, clay and needlework classes as well as several other handicrafts within its art therapy program, which currently serves 30 kids.

Yelena Zakaryan, 11, came to Armenia from Ukraine 18 months ago with her parents and brother. “It is so much better in Armenia,” she said. “Probably because there are more children here I can speak Armenian with, and because my day is so much more interesting.”

Yelena has also had several of her paintings displayed at several Zinvori Mair events, yet it is the needlework that she enjoys the most and for which she has the most pride. She even promises to craft some pieces to present to her class at school, which will be used to adorn the classroom walls.