YEREVAN — There had been plans and revisions, deadlines missed and newly defined. The second building of the My Way Socio-Rehabilitation Day Care Center for people with autism was to be reconstructed, its spacious classrooms and facilities would provide the framework for vocational education of young adults. Through training programs led by professionally qualified instructors and assistants, the students would acquire skills in a variety of fields, which would enable them to find meaningful employment and thus the means to carry out independent lives.
The My Way initiative already has a functioning center in Yerevan for children with autism, and has operated with the help of financial support by public and private donors. Plans for reconstructing building number two began in 2017, and the organizers succeeded in lining up funds pledged from various quarters. As is so often the case in such endeavors, shortfalls occurred. Not only: the country went through a revolution in spring 2018, and the issue of government support was a big question mark. By the end of 2018, construction work came to a halt, as funds had run out. Private donors filled in the temporary gap, among them, the John Mirak Foundation. Creative fundraising efforts by the center’s leadership generated further contributions. Fortunately, a final gift from First Lady Anna Hakobyan’s My Step fund completed the task. On September 28, on the heels of Armenia’s national day, the new building was officially inaugurated.
The My Way leadership, as co-founder and board member Sona Petrosyan put it, had invited the whole world: in accordance with the charter of the Autism National Foundation, with which My Way is associated, that included government officials, from the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Affairs, as well as the Yerevan Municipality, who are members of the board; individuals and organizations, both local and foreign, that have ever supported My Way; those who worked specifically on the second building project, in whatever capacity, such as architects, constructors, furniture manufacturers as well as other partners from other schools and centers in Armenia. Ara Babloyan, the pioneer in addressing the autism problem in Armenia, who has a separate organization, was invited to speak. And a number of parents as well as students, who were to present flowers or certificates of appreciation.
A representative of Nune Sarkissian, the wife of President Armen Sarkissian, came in a non-official capacity and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s wife, Anna Hakobyan, attended the event . Hakobyan appeared with Hovhannes Ghazaryan, the executive director of her own charitable fund, My Step. Due to the high level political participation, the event was covered by major press outlets on television and Internet.
Representatives of Hakobyan’s own fund had visited My Way and reported back on their positive impressions. Then Hakobyan herself visited the center and, supplied with the required documentation of its project plans and costs, decided to allocate resources from her fund to fill in the missing amount. That donation was crucial in ensuring that the entire renovation budget could be covered. With that, My Way was able to go ahead, complete the work and announce the inauguration.
This was a donation from her fund, not from the government. As Babloyan made the point in his speech, “The issues of people with autism are not the concern of a particular government, but a problem that pertains to the whole society, the whole country, the whole nation.”