“This is Jesus and this is Mariam Astvatsatsin. I copied them from my grandfather’s paintings,” little Mariam says, proudly displaying pictures she has painted on her own just looking at the photo or a subject.

Mariam is a new member at FAR’s Yerevan Soup Kitchen. She is shy to say that her favorite meal is Borscht and Spas, but cannot resist her happiness when she learns that Mrs. Rita, the cook, has made Spas.

Mariam’s mother, Varduhi Khachatryan, 36, remembers the day she first came to the soup kitchen: “It was a winter day, bone-chilling cold, and times were hard. My sibling told me about FAR.

She has long attended the soup kitchen and brought me here, too. FAR extended a welcoming and supportive hand to me, as I couldn’t save up for meals with my sick mom and 9-year old daughter,” says Varduhi.

Varduhi is a hairdresser by trade, although she never intended to choose it as a career path. She confesses that she has inherited her father’s path: “I like art, painting, and carpetmaking in particular. I used to work in different art academies and was thrilled to teach the children traditional Armenian handicrafts, including carpetmaking, drawing, and embroidery. However, I can’t go back to my beloved job, since I have back and spine problems. However, I teach my daughter at home, and you know she has already made a small carpet with a cross in the middle. She surpassed my expectations,” says Varduhi in admiration.

Varduhi receives about $51 a month as a part of her state subsidy and $32 from her mother’s pension, which can hardly cover her medications. Varduhi is currently unemployed and she is suffering from joint problems in her knee. For more than 15 years, she has had to provide for her family, doing things like chopping the one cubic meter wood that she would annually get as a state benefit . Varduhi has been raising her child alone since birth, after her husband went to prison and she chose to leave him.

“I stick firmly to the belief that I must be bold and struggle for life. My mom and my daughter are my inspirations, and I’m sure that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. I saw that light once, when I first came to the soup kitchen. I like the people and the environment; we have become one large family. All of us come from different families, however we all have one thing in common…,” says Varduhi.

Varduhi has taught her daughter carpetmaking, and she wants her to become a carpet maker. Mariam puts a lot more of feeling into drawing: “I will become a painter. Hmm… and I will make carpets from time to time,” says little Mariam with a sly smile.