There are 317 registered children with disabilities in the Shengavit district of Yerevan.
54 attend the Youth Creative Center’s Emmanuel Children with Special Needs NGO.
The NGO’s founding director, Manvel Gasparyan, says there are more kids needing their services than they can accommodate.
“Right now, we only can accept a new child when a spot opens up,” Gasparyan says.
Gasparyan is a physiotherapist by profession and has worked for many years in Russia and Ukraine. He returned to Armenia ten years ago and saw a need for his services.
Children with a host of various maladies and those that are mentally-challenged attend the Emmanuel NGO. The gamut runs from kids with autism to those who have suffered child brain seizures. Some attend regular schools and others, special schools.
There are twelve professional doctors and therapists that work with the children on a voluntary basis. The NGO runs a number of therapy groups – painting, modelling, design, etc.
The NGO also offers free psychological counselling to the parents.
The NGO occupies one room at the Shengavit Youth Creative Center at no charge. One of Manvel’s friends has also temporarily allocated another room for the counselling sessions.
“We had been petitioning the Shengavit District Administration for a site since 2007. They finally sent us here. Before, I would offer my services by going to the homes of these children. We hope to get the entire floor so that we can expand our operation,” said Gasparyan.
Nareh Aramyan, who heads the Youth Creative Center, told Hetq that the building doesn’t belong to them and that he can’t allocate the first floor to Gasparyan.
“It belongs to the municipality and they have to approve such a plan,” said Aramyan.
Gasparyan and Aramyan have written letters to various local and municipal officials regarding a new larger space.
This past February, Gasparyan received a response from the Yerevan Municipality’s Real Estate Administrative Division stating that the NGO needs a minimum space of 1,000 square meters to operate effectively, but that the Creative Center’s building is not equipped to allocate such a space.
Mr. Arsen Amyan, from the Real Estate Division, responded that the building already accommodates a host of extra-curricular educational and cultural programs. He says that a social services program like that offered by the Emmanuel NGO would not be expedient.
Nareh Aramyan also agrees with this conclusion, and thinks that a health and rehabilitative NGO would be best located in another medical facility.
|Shengavit Youth Creative Center||Center's 1st floor|
Gasparyan says that if his NGO were to be allocated the entire first floor, his friends and international agencies would assist in its renovation.
Operating out of the one room it now has, the NGO can accept kids from one to three days per week.
Armen's Mom: "It's been an uphill struggle since the age of two"
Armen, an 11 year-old who attends, is mentally challenged and has memory issues. He’s been coming to the NGO once a week for the past six months and attends the design class. It assists in improving creative and mobility functions.
|Armineh Galstyan and her 11 year-old son Armen|
Armineh Galstyan, the boy’s mother, says that Armen gets a moral boost by attending classes.
“He’s started to build things at home from paper and glue. Before, he’d just sit around doing nothing. Now, he wants to work, to hold things and create. This is a big and significant change for me.”
Armineh has been focusing her attention on her son’s physical and mental problems since they surfaced at the age of two.
“It’s been a constant struggle for us all these years. His verbal skills have also improved. Armen is a good-natured boy who wants to interact and talk with everybody. Slowly, his classmates can understand him a bit better.
Armen attends the Mkhitar Sepastatsi School that offers an inclusive educational program that brings in specialists to work with her son and other special needs children. The boy has also joined the Armenian dance group.
Manvel Gasparyan says that the number of special needs children in Armenia is growing and that the reason is the impact of social and political factors on the parents and incorrect treatment consequences.
|Items created by the kids at the Emmanuel NGO|
Mr. Gasparyan says his long-term wish is to have a number of rehabilitative centers in all the regions of Armenia.
“This way, all special needs kids and their parents would get help to fully integrate into society. They would understand that society at large doesn’t reject them but rather accepts and loves them.”
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