Three Interns Work at FAR Children’s Support Center in Yerevan

By Melanie Panosian

This summer the ACYOA Central Council teamed up with the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) and Birthright Armenia to create an eight-week internship at the FAR Children’s Support Center in Yerevan, Armenia. For the summer of 2011—its inaugural year—the program accepted three interns from various backgrounds to be the pioneers in this project: Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan, Crystal Densmore, and Krista Tyner.

(L-R) Crystal Densmore, Krista Tyner, and Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan outside the FAR Children’s Support Center in Yerevan

Coordinated by Birthright Armenia, the interns moved in with their host families in Yerevan on June 12 and will reside there as they serve in the homeland until Aug. 7. Along with housing accommodations, they are enrolled in Armenian lessons and participate in excursions through Birthright Armenia.

Through their work at the FAR Children’s Center, the interns are gaining knowledge about children and family protection services in Armenia, in addition to hands-on experience in various departments. The center, founded in 2000 in Yerevan, provides psychological, social, and medical counseling for Armenian children ages 3-18. The FAR Children’s Center is the only institution in Armenia that functions as a crisis intervention and rehabilitation center for children in need.

As a facility, it also provides shelter, counseling, outreach services, healthcare, and legal assistance to children and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The interns assist with the operations of the center on a daily basis; yet, as Krista Tyner explained, “No two days are exactly the same, which is great because we get to see all aspects of the organization.”

Working under Armenia’s leading expert in child protection services and the executive director of the center, Dr. Mira Antonyan, the interns have the opportunity to attend conferences and social work meetings and help Antonyan edit articles for publication and conduct research.

Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan, 22, of the St. Mary Church in Washington, D.C., expressed her appreciation for Antonyan’s “relentlessness and kindness, which have been immensely inspiring.” She added that “the knowledge Dr. Antonyan bestows on us about social work in Armenia has been invaluable.” Khoja-Eynatyan is teaching individual piano lessons to the children at the center, in addition to using her Armenian fluency to assist as a translator. She is currently studying at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University for a graduate performance degree in percussion, and has already received degrees in percussion and musicology from the same university.

Krista Tyner, 22, of the St. James Church in Evanston, Ill., is teaching dance to the children at the center. A recent graduate of Loyola University in Chicago with a degree in sociology and minors in psychology and dance, Tyner has been chairperson of her parish’s Senior ACYOA chapter for the past two years. She is a new addition to the St. James Church Choir, and served as a committee member of the Armenian Dance Company of Chicago for the past two years.

Crystal Densmore, 20, of the St. Mesrob Church in Racine, Wisc., is teaching computer skills to the children at the center, in addition to working on other daily tasks. She is a nursing major at Waukesha County Technical College in Wisconsin, and has participated in ACYOA for several years.

Overall, the interns are very pleased with their experience, and are proud to be making a difference. Khoja-Eynatyan explained, “I quickly learned that my positive attitude makes an immediate difference in the children’s lives.” Densmore offered another lesson learned: “These kids are always happy, and seeing their smiling faces tells me that no matter how difficult life can be, you can always be happy.”

She said she has come to realize “I am stronger than I thought I was.” Still, she admits, “In the beginning it was really difficult. I cried most nights after I got home.”

“I can’t change their lives in eight weeks,” Krista now realizes. “But I know I can have a strong impact on their lives, and they most definitely will have a strong impact on mine when I leave here.”


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