For the past three months, FAR’s Mardigian Children’s Center has held weekly debates aimed at encouraging beneficiary children (ages 14 to 15) to develop their public speaking and critical thinking skills. Debates usually touch upon subjects, which are discussed and selected by children in advance, such as children’s rights and protection, the education system and its challenges, uniforms, etc.

Teens usually form two groups and debate the pros and cons of the selected topic, which recently covered subjects as varied as foreign adoption and euthanasia. Then they vote on the winner.

“I think that every child deserves to be loved and cared for. And that can only happen in a devoted family,” said Ani Palanduzyan, 15, who defended the idea that Armenian children could be adopted by foreign families. The opposing team, however, argued adoption by non-Christians could risk the preservation and protection of nation and faith. Ani’s team won the one-hour debate with their argument that orphans have one dream: to live and be raised in a loving family regardless of nationality.

Fifteen-year-old Areg Melikyan’s team was the declared winner in the debate for the right to euthanasia. “I think that if a person has an incurable disease, euthanasia can be applied with the patient’s consent. This will ease the pain of him or her, as well as their relatives,” he said during the debate. Areg’s dream is to one day become the country’s minister of health and to fill the gaps in the existing system, starting from pay raises to the modernization of medical equipment in the rural regions of Armenia.

But the discussion, which took place after the group watched the film You Don’t Know Jack about Dr. Jack Kevorkian, became heated at some points. Narek Safaryan, 15, from the “con” team argued that the duration of life is “God’s decision and no one could meddle in God’s affairs.”

“I am against euthanasia in reality and wouldn’t like it to be applied to any of my relatives,” said Areg after the debate. “However, this ‘role’ helped me to raise awareness from a different angle and to make the debate much more interesting.”

Located in Berd City in Tavush Province, The Mardigian Children’s Center is a part of FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP). The Center, which offers psychosocial support to children and youth, opened last year.

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.