Thanks to a generous gift from the James and Marta Batmasian Foundation, FAR has started a major project which, among other improvements, is aimed at establishing a modern vocational training center for children at the Parakar #2 Special School in Armavir Province. A school that serves 180 physically and mentally-disabled students (ages 7-18), Parakar #2 has been in desperate need of improvement for years. Its roof has been partially missing, exposing vulnerable children to the elements. Some of its classrooms were literally crumbling, and eventually rendered unusable, ultimately limiting the school’s capacity and resources.

Last year, FAR renovated and furnished Parakar’s culinary classroom. This year, even more impactful improvements are in the works. FAR is currently working on elevating the school’s safety standards and updating its facilities, including its vocational training classes where children and youth can learn skills like carpentry and shoe cobbling, which may help them to eventually find employment. New classrooms and a new roof are in currently in construction as well.

There are also plans to add a new gym. In addition, FAR will renovate the arts & crafts and therapy rooms. FAR also plans to build a rehabilitation center equipped with modern IT resources where the children will be able to access services to help improve their functioning and mobility. The dormitory area will be renovated, too, as most students board at the school. All construction is expected to be completed in about three years.

In 2018, thanks to Ayo!’s Planting Roots project, a greenhouse was built on school grounds. With guidance, students will use it to start cultivating their own vegetables for school meals.

Recently, Annie Madzhagopian, an international expert on inclusive education and vocational training programs for Persons with Disabilities (PWD), conducted a tour of the educational complex to get a better understanding of its capacity and operations. She will be providing guidance about how to best improve the school during its final stages of renovation.

By renovating the school, FAR is trying to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for learning and living for this specific category of children and youth. Such an environment could help students with their character development and sense of self-purpose; it could contribute to maintaining their aspirations to excel.

FAR Armenia Director Bagrat Sargsyan said these improvements are important in a number of ways, specifically in the fact that they will create a more comfortable and safer environment conducive to the positive development of children with disabilities. Improvements will help them to acquire new skills and facilitate their integration into society. In addition, teachers’ roles at the school will be reimagined so that kids can view teachers as mentors, role models and collaborators. They will be trained to be able to instill personal values and life lessons that would help students become productive adults and active citizens, regardless of their specific life circumstances.

“The program will have positive impact, both for the children with disabilities and their families. We do not simply follow the objectives of inclusive education, but we go further. We want create a model that expands the concept of inclusion from the classroom to the workplace,” said Bagrat.