EyeSupport takes Armenia

Five best friends fighting for the same cause mark one year anniversary

About a few days after the Beirut blast of August 4, 2020, we all turned to each other with the same thought in mind: “How can we help all those Armenians who lost a home, a loved one, their life?” We started throwing out ideas of how we can raise money, something unique. After a short time, we reached a collective decision to sell handmade evil eye bracelets. That’s how Eye Support was born

Throughout our first year, we made and sold hundreds of bracelets. We decided to start expanding our audience to help relief efforts around the world. We designed socks to support the Armenian community in Syria during the pandemic, as well as face masks and different iterations of our signature bracelets to raise money for relief work in the homeland during the 2020 Artsakh War. Along the way, we became chocolatiers when we launched our breakable Valentine’s Day heart fundraiser, and we also enjoyed organizing a local Easter egg hunt in Watertown, Mass. 

Although we were helping Armenia and Artsakh as much as we could from afar, we knew there was something missing. We wanted to do more. We longed to build relationships in our beloved homeland and meet the faces that we have been working so hard to support. Since our initial goal had been to raise money through creative expression, we realized we could uplift schools and students in Armenia with our Backpacks for Armenia campaign. We were overwhelmed by the excitement and support within minutes of our campaign launch.

Backpacks for Armenia supports students with a backpack filled with supplies including a notebook, pencils, markers, colored pencils, a sharpener and ruler. Some of the supplies were purchased in the US, and the rest was purchased upon our arrival in Armenia at a warehouse market that sells anything and everything you could imagine called Petak.

After roaming through Petak’s stacked shelves and bustling aisles, we ran into someone who wanted to help us in any way possible. Little did we know he was going to become our newest best friend and number one EyeSupporter. His name was Arayik, and he supplied us with all the backpacks that we needed and introduced us to several other vendors. 

Our level of excitement may have been too high during our shopping spree, and we didn’t realize how challenging it would be to transfer our purchases to our apartment…on the seventh floor of a building without an elevator. We were inspired when we saw a woman next door with a pulley attached to her window sill, lifting a heavy watermelon up to her apartment. We adopted the same technique and tied all the bags to a string and pulled them from our balcony in Yerevan. Our success was evident from our blistered hands and sore arms. 

We then spent hours filling up 150 backpacks just in time for our first visit to Proshyan—one of the closest villages to Yerevan. Proshyan suffered heavy losses during the 2020 Artsakh War. We decided to meet with those families who had lost a loved one and provide their children with backpacks in hopes to put a smile on their face and get them excited for the upcoming school year. Those grieving families are not carrying the pain on their shoulders alone. Although we live thousands of miles away, that pain is felt in our hearts, and our continuous support is what these families desperately need. We visited a handful of homes, sat with the families and paid our respects. We were overwhelmed with tears as each family told us the story of their brave fallen soldier. We also met with several children who lost their fathers. We were grateful to see them smile as they accepted our backpacks. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The following day we trekked to Norashen—a border village in the region of Tavush. As we approached the village, we saw a group of children running around on the playground. We were told they were participating in a jampar (camp). When their counselor realized that we were not from Norashen and approached us asking if we needed help, she was so excited to learn that we were visiting to distribute backpacks filled with school supplies. Within seconds, the children came running in groups to eagerly accept a backpack. Their counselor told us that it is very rare for the students to each have their own backpacks and school supplies; usually a backpack is shared among friends and siblings. She told us how much it meant to them; it was as if Santa had come early.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our alarms were ringing at 7 a.m. the following morning for our journey to the village of Mughni in the province of Aragatsotn. The principal of Mughni had previously expressed how their school is in need of computers, which we incorporated with our backpack delivery. We had called one of our friends from Yerevan who took us to almost every technology store in the capital to help us secure five computers. When we reached Mughni, we stopped in front of St. Gevork Monastery. Distracted by its beauty, Nicole stepped into a hole and fell. The entire village immediately ran over for help; we’d say this was our way of letting Mughni know that the EyeSupport team is here!

When we started unloading the van at the principal’s house, the villagers could not believe their eyes when they saw our special delivery. One mom’s eyes began to water, as she exclaimed, “Are these brand new?” Slowly, groups of students showed up at the principal’s house impatiently waiting to receive their new backpacks. The students were overwhelmed by the wide variety of options and pleasantly surprised to see the supplies inside. After passing out 50 backpacks and of course drinking Armenian coffee with the principal and her family, we bid farewell and parted ways. 

EyeSupport team in Proshyan

With our trip winding down, we found it impossible to stop helping these villages and decided to dedicate any time remaining in Armenia to continue our work. Our new friends in Proshyan notified us of a camp at the agoump, where a group of 25 boys would be learning karate. We refused to pass up an opportunity like this. We bought 25 duffle bags from a local store, hopped into our taxi and headed to Proshyan. On our way, we made a stop at a lahmajun restaurant owned by the nephew of Bedo Ghevondyan (a deputy commander of the volunteer detachment from Proshyan and the Shushi special battalion during the Artsakh Liberation War). We picked up more than six dozen lahmajun for the campers and staff. When we arrived, we were welcomed with a warm smile by U. Vartan, who introduced us to 25 young boys lined up in their karate stance ready to greet us. After distributing our gym bags, we joined in their games of dodgeball and ping pong. As we were playing, one of the campers invited us to his room to show us something—a ping pong table and net that he had invented with his friends. Instead of rackets, they were using slippers! This was definitely something that we hadn’t seen before. 

After an enjoyable lunch with engaging and memorable conversations, it was time to leave and head back to Yerevan. It was a bittersweet moment knowing we were able to put smiles on these kids’ faces, but it was difficult to leave and not be able to help more. We jumped into our taxi, and headed back to Yerevan, knowing we’d be back soon. 

Leaving each one felt like we were leaving family.

Although we definitely stretched ourselves thin along this journey and were nonstop, we all still wished that we could do more for these children, their families and their villages each time we left. Leaving each one felt like we were leaving family. We were grateful to build these bridges and create those moments of happiness. The families we met greatly appreciated the fact that five girls from America not only thought about them but made sure to visit them. 

We’d like to thank all those who supported us through our journey. This is only the beginning. To date, we have raised over $30,000 which has been donated to relief efforts in Lebanon, Syria, and Armenia through the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), and of course the work that we carried out in Armenia. We’re just five best friends who will continue fighting for the same cause.

EyeSupport team members Nicole Keikian, Meghri Dervartanian and Nina Vosbigian all smiles in Armenia
A Boston-based organization made up of five friends fighting for humanity. Team members include Kristina Ayanian, Marie Bazarbashian, Meghri Dervartanian, Nicole Keikian and Nina Vosbigian. Their aim is to cultivate global social impact through creative expression.

Latest posts by EyeSupport (see all)

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.