PHILADELPHIA — The Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief (SOAR) will celebrate its fifth anniversary in grand style on Saturday, October 16, at the Sheraton University Hotel from 6 to 11 p.m. The event will include dinner and silent and Chinese auctions featuring handcrafted items from the orphanages in Armenia, art, jewelry, books, gift certificates, sports memorabilia and much more. Master of ceremonies will be attorney Mark Geragos and music will be provided by DJ Nick Terkanian and Alan Semerdjian. The cost is $65 per person.
SOAR was founded by George and Erica Yacoubian in May 2006, shortly after they adopted their older daughter, Liliana, from Armenia. SOAR is the only non-profit organization that focuses exclusively on providing humanitarian relief to orphaned children living in Armenia. Working with a loyal donor base and a trusted network of partners, SOAR’s mission is to distribute food, clothing, medicine, toys, educational supplies and other essential goods and services to orphanages throughout Armenia.
There are two types of orphaned children in Armenia. Natural orphans are those children without a mother and father. Social orphans are those children who have at least one living parent, but whose parent(s) is/are unable or unwilling to care for them. Unfortunately, most state institutions and orphanages are underfunded, poorly managed, in disrepair, and understaffed. Although the children receive basic material, educational and nutritional support, which they might not otherwise receive at home, most institutions do very little to care for the emotional, spiritual and psychological well-being of the children. As a result, many of these orphans and institutionalized children in Armenia are at very high risk of succumbing to abuse, human trafficking, prostitution or conflict with the law.
There are 15 orphanages in Armenia, all of which receive assistance from SOAR: Children’s Home of Gumri (105 mentally and physically handicapped children 6 years old and younger); Gavar, near Lake Sevan (115 healthy children between the ages of 3 and 18); Hadug Tibi, in Yerevan (83 healthy children between 7 months and 8 years old); Kharberd, in the Ararat region (240 mentally and physically disabled children between the ages of 6 and 18); Nork, in Yerevan (80 healthy children six years old and younger); Nubarashen, a state-funded boarding school in Yerevan (105 mentally and physically handicapped children between 7 and 18); Fridtjof Nansen (formerly Houys) in Gumri (80 healthy children between 4 and 18); Sisters of Charity- Bethlehem in Yerevan (15 mentally and physically disabled babies and young children, all of which were abandoned at local hospitals); Sisters of Charity-Spitak Orphanage (33 mentally and physically handicapped children); SOS Children’s Village in Abovyan (80 healthy children between the ages of 9 months and 15 years old); Trchoonian Home in Gurmi (60 intellectually-gifted children between the ages of 3 and 12); Vanadzor (110 healthy children 18 and under); Vardashen, a state boarding school in Yerevan (83 healthy children who “exhibit socially dangerous behavior” between the ages of 6 and 18); Zadik, in Yerevan (138 healthy children between the ages of 6 and 18) and Our Lady of Armenia Center in Gumri (60-65 healthy children between the ages of 6 and 18).
Of the 15 orphanages, three are run by non-Armenian organizations.
The Sisters of Charity orphanages in Yerevan and Spitak are run by a Catholic religious order established in 1950 by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Mother Teresa to tend to “the poorest of the poor.” The order currently consists of more than 4,500 nuns who are active in 133 countries.