“We witnessed mothers who made sure that their children were served and fed before touching any food for themselves. We were directed by the poor to serve others, who hadn’t yet received food, as they wanted to make sure that their compatriots were fed. We filled containers which were taken by those present to feed their hungry neighbors who were too sick to travel to the soup kitchen. We witnessed the unwavering Christian spirit of the poorest of the poor. We departed emotionally exhausted and spiritually fulfilled.”

This excerpt comes from a heartwarming letter received by Leo and Sona Manuelian who organized the trip to Armenia for the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia (FCHA) volunteers. On this unforgettable trip, the FCHA volunteers visited one of our project sites.

It all started a month ago, when the FCHA team – with FAR Board member Der Yeprem Kelegian’s support and recommendation – decided to pay a visit to FAR’s Nor Nork soup kitchen*. FCHA volunteers normally visit Armenia to help families finish half-built houses. This time the volunteers wished to expand their mission by visiting one of FAR’s soup kitchens.

The July 6 dinner at FAR’s Nor Nork Soup Kitchen was at full capacity with about 15 FCHA volunteers from different backgrounds blending together for a few hours to serve those Armenians most in need. The group of enthusiastic Armenian and non-Armenian volunteers from the U.S. had arrived with one mission: to help the vulnerable. They did so by sharing their talents, time, and service to make this a very special event for more than 80 beneficiaries who receive their daily hot meal at the soup kitchen.

Spas (yogurt soup), buckwheat, roasted green beans, locally baked bread rolls, and Armenian apricots for dessert – it was undeniably an ideal dinner. Upon arrival, the FCHA team, guided by FAR’s Soup Kitchen Coordinator Rafik Martirosyan and the head chef Khachig Gyurdjyan, filled the plates, served the beneficiaries, bussed the tables, washed the dishes, and began preparations for the next day’s meal by cleaning and washing the vegetables.

The group’s volunteering stint also had a positive effect on the beneficiaries who had a chance to put their favorite English words and phrases to good use, take photos, and feel the care and love radiating from the U.S. volunteers.

“I’m happy to meet these generous and kind people. This is very meaningful to me because it really makes me feel loved and cared for,” said one of our long-term beneficiaries – Srbuhi Ekmekjyan, 65, who treated the volunteers with beautiful renditions of “Der Voghormya” and “Alleluia.”

“The soup kitchen beneficiaries are thrilled every time such volunteer groups visit them,” shared FAR Soup Kitchen Coordinator Rafik Martirosyan. Last year, FAR also organized a “Matagh ” event for them with Der Yeprem’s support and initiative. The beneficiaries felt blessed and cared for. It’s very powerful and inspiring.”

* The Nor Nork Soup Kitchen is a FAR Project sponsored by the Dadourian Family Foundation of New York. The soup kitchen provides nurtitious meals five days a week to more than 170 beneficiaries.