As part of our Children of Armenian Sponsorship Program (CASP), this spring we distributed financial aid to about 500 children living in Armenia’s Syunik, Tavush and Shirak provinces, as well as in Javakhk, Georgia.

A CASP stipend means relief for orphans and children being raised by single mothers in low-income households. Their U.S. sponsors agree to provide annual financial support through stipends until the children turn 18. With these stipends, thousands of mothers can afford things like school uniforms and bags for their kids; they can take them to sports or dance classes, or even afford heat or food for their homes.

Sirun Sharyan, 30, lives in Berd in the Tavush Province. She has raised her three sons Roman, 11, Davit, 8, and Arman, 6, alone ever since her husband Nver’s death in 2012. She has faced a lot of burdens, like walking 10 kilometers to work, trying to find affordable housing, and barely surviving on a scarcity of food. With a state benefit and single-mother pension of 101,000 AMD (180 USD) a month, Sirun was not content with her family’s living conditions.

It wasn’t until her sons were enrolled in our CASP program in 2015 that she felt some relief. “I want my kids to experience life in all its fullness. I face many hardships and it’s hard for the kids, too, but I’m hopeful to reach my goals with my sons. As a mother, I want my little ones to be healthy, happy, growing, and learning. My joy comes from watching them grow up, and they also help me a lot with the household,” she remarked.

She recalled the time when Nver was ill. Sirun and the boys were filled with unhappiness; Davit even developed speech problems and she had to take him to the doctor in Ijevan, 50 kilometers away from Berd, as there was no local specialist. “Fund for Armenian Relief covered my travel costs, and after 10 visits we felt positive changes,” she said. Sirun received help for those visits through FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP), which works towards poverty reduction in Tavush Province.

In 2013, through BCPP, Sirun was also able to buy some pieces of furniture “to fill her empty one-room house.” Soon after, she received 50 chickens which “brought her luck,” as she said. “I sell the extra eggs to buy food for my kids. The brothers often argue about who will take the eggs at the end of the day, but the feeding is only on me,” Sirun smiled.

Sirun said that CASP program has vastly influenced and inspired her children to learn well. Her boys have become motivated to study hard at school knowing that someone out there cares about their future, she said. It has helped them to afford much needed school supplies. “This is not a just handout. It’s more like a boost from hardship. You can’t imagine how overjoyed my children are every time we go to get their CASP stipend from someone who sponsors their future so that they can accessv life essentials,” she said.

The Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP) is a FAR project sponsored by the Women’s Guild Central Council of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern).

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.