On June 1, FAR Children’s Center beneficiaries found themselves at the Human Rights Defender’s office. They had been invited there to celebrate International Children’s Day – a day to raise awareness about children’s rights and wellbeing – and were at first shy and a bit overwhelmed by the experience. After the Head of the Children’s Rights Protection Unit Mr. Eduard Israyelyan welcomed the children and congratulated them in a speech dedicated to the celebration, he invited them to ask questions. This prompted the curious youngsters to open up.

The first courageous soul was Spartak Mikayelyan, 12, who raised his hand and confidently introduced himself. He asked, if education is free for all children at primary schools, then why do we pay for the books?” After a brief silence, Mr. Israyelyan replied, “Very good question,” and then half-jokingly suggested to address the question to the Ministry of Education and Science. Then Mr. Israelyan shared, “In fact, the state doesn’t have the capacity to provide all of the children with free books. However, it purchases books for the most vulnerable.”

The second question from Milena Musayelyan, 13, was also on point: “Then, does the teacher have a right to label the student by pointing out his vulnerability or poverty?” “I am personally critical of such behavior. I think it’s bad; the teacher should not label anyone,” explained the Children’s Rights Protector.

Mr. Israelyan and his team led the youth in two hours of talking, discussing, questioning, and answering. The enriching experience culminated with a group photo with the human rights specialists and the children.

The meeting at the Human Rights Defenders’ office was just one of many events that took place on International Children’s Day. At the FAR Children’s Center, the celebration kicked off on May 30, when a group of Police Academy students together with students from the Ghevondyan Music School paid a visit to the Center to interact with the beneficiaries and make their holiday an incredible one through upbeat songs and dances. The party continued for more than four days, as the Center children went to entertainment and education centers, including the Yerevan Zoo and Victory Park. The children also spent time at the Media Initiative Center, where about 15 of the older children learned a number of computer programs related to media and communications, and played logic games. The children also received presents in the form of cakes, cookies, and ice cream.

True to a tradition now well-established by FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty* (BCPP) team, Berd’s youngest residents had a chance to explore the incredibly bright colors of their childhood in a fun day immersed in the arts. The June 1 celebrations started at the Berd Children’s Park where children Berd shared their talents through theatrical performances, plays, songs, and dances. The FAR Mardigian Choir from Berd’s Secondary School #4 exhilarated the audience through their wonderful harmonies and contagious energy. The young musicians magically took the audience straight to the heart of their delightfully bizarre narratives.

Soon after the performances, the chalk art competition – [supported and organized by the BCPP team] – gave the little ones a chance to showcase their art based on the topic “My Beautiful Homeland.” The competition drew more the 100 participants, and the artists of the winning works were celebrated with a Certificate Award.

Both the Children’s Center beneficiaries and the Berd kids were delighted with the warm atmosphere FAR team has provided them thus also promoting youth activities and cultural life in the capital and the border region.

*Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) is a multidimensional FAR project addressing child poverty in the region of Tavush, sponsored by the Edward and Helen Mardigian Foundation.