Hi, I’m Margaret, (or Maga II, as some of my colleagues call me), a new member of a large family called Fund for Armenian Relief. I want to tell you about my new family—people who make life-changing impact in this small country called Armenia through projects aimed at easing the pain of thousands, through initiatives that ensure the future of the new generation, and about my six-month experience, which seems like a small wave in the ocean of FAR’s multi-yearlong journey in the quest of dignity, trust, and service.

Looking back at the spring of 2017 brings a sense of restlessness. On March 1st, I officially stepped into the world of FAR as a Communications Officer, although I had previously volunteered with FAR for a short while. This most recent part of my experience at FAR is what I call the “revelation to what’s called honoring the past.”

I remember my first interviews with elders and underprivileged families who have been supported by FAR for years. Back in the spring, I headed to Gyumri to hold an interview with some of the elder beneficiaries who have been attending FAR’s Atinizyan Senior Center, a soup kitchen which provides nutritious meals on a daily basis to over 150 elders in Gyumri. When I entered the kingdom of old Gyumretzies (people of Gyumri]), I felt odd sensations in my stomach because I was anticipating something else. In the beginning, I was speechless; I just scanned the crowd with my naked eyes. People who witnessed the earthquake of 1988 were still living in pitiable conditions – alone and abandoned by family, with little or no access to food and basic living, and zero social life. I saw an old tatik (grandmother) who seemed all alone even though she was surrounded by many other tatiks. I approached her and said, “Bon appetit, tatikner jan.” Then I stood there for roughly 10 minutes. Her name was Siranush, and she described her difficult life in just five minutes. I reached my hands toward her and said, “All is good now, Siranush tatik.” She reciprocated, giving me her hand, and I could see the moisture in her eyes. When she learned that I was from FAR, she hugged me all of a sudden and I felt an unusual warmth. I realized that she expressed her effortless gratitude and love to the people of FAR through me, an appreciation to those who honor the elders and have love not just for their own dear ones, but for the unknown ones.

Looking back at the summer of 2017 brings a smile to my face. This part at FAR I call “enjoying the outcome of people’s empowerment.” During one of my visits to the Berd Region where FAR has implemented the Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) since 2013, I encountered a woman, Mrs. Arev Nersisyan, who exuded energy in her old years and was vigorously talking about her recent activities and the FAR programs that have changed her life. When I asked her, “Can you sum up your hardships and victories in two sentences?” (Possibly, a stupid question.) She looked at me with her beaming smile and said, “I don’t want to sum up my life because I feel happier and more empowered now than ever, and I love every bit of my life.” I was moved by her answer.

Whilst talking to a number of students, scholars, researchers, doctors, and healthcare service providers, I have seen something similar in all of them—a smile of gratitude for the outpouring of kindness they have experienced through FAR’s multifaceted programs, and a change in attitude, which is called giving back.

Now, autumn brings a sense of fulfilment to my face. I call this new phase “embracing the power of now to ensure a sustainable future.” It’s true. These six months at FAR were tough, full of ups and downs, joy and frustration, however, I have experienced the feeling of what’s called Dignity, Trust, and Service on behalf of a group of dedicated people who honor the past, empower the present, and ensure the future of the Armenians living in Hayrenig.