Eye surgery has definitely changed Mariam Mkrtchyan’s life in many ways, not least of which is her improved self-confidence. Mariam underwent surgery for strabismus, or crossed eyes, in early April.

“I had a complex before,” said the 16-year-old. “It was as if I could feel people staring at me all the time, but now that fear is gone and I am pleased with the results.”

Mariam developed crossed eyes after a bad fall at age two. Since the family had no means to pay for corrective surgery, she dealt with her condition until she was accepted into FAR’s Child Poverty Reduction Program, which covered surgery costs. Her eye doctor recently approved surgery follow-up during a recent check-up in Yerevan, during which she was also prescribed Mariam contact lenses to help her vision.

Mariam comes from Nerkin Sasnashen Village in Aragatsotn Province. She lives there with her mom, grandmother, sister and two brothers. The village’s terrain is so mountainous that they can’t farm; even the potato harvest is not enough to get them by during the winter. The family’s two cows help keep them stocked with dairy, however. But making a living is an issue.

Maryam’s mother, 38-year-old Gayane, raises her children with the help of her mother-in-law, Teresa. The family’s meager monthly income of $190 comes from state benefits and Teresa’s pension. Gayane’s husband, who is in Russia for seasonal work, hasn’t sent help to his family.

Gayane is very happy that Mariam was accepted into FAR’s program. “Raising four children is not easy. I would never be able to make $500 to pay for the surgery. I am very thankful to the donors who helped us. Let God grant them long lives. I pray for them every single day, and not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for them,” she said.

Mariam wants to become a designer and she draws well, but the family cannot afford daily transportation to get her to the district of Talin, 15 km from Nerkin Sasnashen, where she can take classes. However, she keeps herself busy by enthusiastically participating in the Peacebuilding Club meetings in her own village, which are supported by World Vision Armenia.