This year presented a profound opportunity to advance the work of AYI. Last year Armenians suffered massive losses during the 44-day war initiated by Azerbaijan and Turkey. Many young soldiers were killed. Homes and comminities were destroyed and countless families were displaced. Although the war has stopped, the aggression in Karabakh and parts of Armenia continues. The horrors of war have impacted Armenian society today - evidenced by widespread community trauma, unyielding grief, and the anxiety associated with an uncertain future. While a 'cease-fire' agreement is in place, there is little comfort and stability for Armenians living in Armenia and Karabakh. Ongoing human rights violations continue on a regular basis. Soldiers and the architects of war act unabated and with impunity. Where are the nations who promote human rights and self-determination? Where are Armenia's missing soldiers?
Armenian Youth Initiative (AYI) was established as a Minnesota (501-C3) non-profit to provide activities and opportunities to youth and their families. We began this initiative in the early 90's and recently (October, 2021) completed our 13th initiative serving hundreds of children and families. AYI is working with our partners on the ground in Armenia to support disadvantaged youth and help displaced families. We are providing essential support to many refugees as well as Armenia's underserved population. Your help continues to make a difference! Thank you for your continued support! Some of our initiatives include:
* Humanitarian assistance (food, clothing, shoes, boots, school supplies, medical needs) to deprived families in collaboration with our partners in Armenia.
* Social/cultural/educational programs that directly benefit children and families - including refugees from multiple countries.
* Collaborative projects (Tufenkian Foundation/Mission Armenia) to advance Mental Health programs and projects to better serve those in need. Through workshops and seminars, AYI provided needed support to front-line workers, mental health professionals, social workers, students, and parents.
* Partner with Theater for Changes by providing interactive theater opportunities (with social messages) for underserved Armenian youth
Due to COVID and other challenges, AYI focused less on direct programs for children - and more on support for existing efforts by those who provide aid to others. The current atmosphere in Armenia is less than favorable and many social workers and program coordinators are left caring for thousands of people in need of assistance. AYI was asked to participate in professional workshops that offer strategies, guidance, and support to those working with war refugees, displaced families, and a traumatized population.
The uncertainty of Armenia's future provides a chilling reminder that Armenia is not in control of its own destiny. One can only imagine how this lack of personal and professional agency plays out emotionally on the population as a whole. AYI works diligently to keep at bay an impending sense of despair among parents, grandparents, children and professionals who work with these vulnerable population. Scores of children are impacted by tragic events beyond their control. Trauma, grief, anxiety, depression is rampant. AYI remains committed to working with our partners to address many of these concerns as resources will allow.
A big shout-out to our partners in Armenia who work tirelessly to support youth and families. Your hard work and dedication is not unnoticed. We are thankful for the generosity of so many, especially to our donors here who make our work possible. And a special thank you to my son, Armen; without you this work would not have been possible. To all of you - a heartfelt thank you!
We cannot move mountains, but we can teach and support those learning to navigate around the mountainous obstacles before them.
Martin Meketarian, Executive Director
Armenian Youth Initiative, Autumn, 2021