New Year Miracles

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In many countries, December is the month of expectations, where the holidays cause many to find some hope in something, whether it be love or even “miracles,” like gifts or surprises. In Armenia, December is also alive and festive, but there are families whose children have ceased to believe in such miracles.
During one of FAR’s site visits years ago, staff met with children living in Armenia’s rural regions and asked them what they would like to receive for their Christmas/New Year’s Day presents. Almost all of children said the same: chocolate! Others even listed the names of chocolates they wanted, but never had the chance to try. Then, after a lot of thinking, FAR decided to initiate the Chocolate Bank Project in 2014. This year, Ayo also joined the initiative, doubling the efforts so that more children could benefit, and perhaps even believe in miracles again.
Each year we choose a different region to visit. The project launches December 1st, and supporters need only give one bar of chocolate to participate. Donation boxes are located at FAR’s office, as well as at the offices of partner organizations who choose to join the campaign. During the first year of the Chocolate Bank, FAR visited Berd City in the Tavush Region, where staff gave out 1.5 kg chocolate each to 266 kids from low-income families with more than three children. In year two, FAR visited Gymri in the Shirak Region to give 2 kg each to 250 children living in temporary shelters, or domiks, built after the 1988 earthquake.

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This year, Ayo! joined the campaign, calling it Chocolate Bank … and More!, with the aim of collecting not only chocolate but also winter clothes for 355 kids from eight communities in the Lori Region. Starting December 1st, our office turned into Santa Clause’s workshop. We were open six days a week, and we extended our hours so that everyone who wanted to contribute to the campaign could stop by with their chocolate donations. The stream of visitors was seemingly endless. In nearly 20 days, our team reached an unbelievable goal: a collection of more than 700 kg of chocolate, and around $6,559 in monetary donations. More than 40 organizations, banks, IT companies, cafes, and schools contributed to the campaign by installing boxes on their premises for chocolate donations as well.
We also had many touching moments during our campaign. One day we had a guest, an old lady named Laura. She had heard about our project on the radio and came to our office. She said she didn’t have money to buy chocolate, but she offered to help us with arranging, sorting, and weighing the chocolate. Our hearts filled with tears from her kindness. We also had another visitor, Mr. Richard, who brought several fairy tale books instead of chocolate—all he could offer—which was amazing. He also visited us right before our trip to Lori to wish us good luck.

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The most heart-touching letter we received was on December 17th from a woman who wrote us that her five-year-old daughter, Anahit, wanted to participate in our project, but she was unable to visit us at the moment because she was in Muratsan’s Children’s Hospital fighting Leukemia. We immediately organized a surprise visit to meet this little angel. Anahit was so happy that she could donate the chocolate that she had previously collected herself, hoping it would make other kids happy. When she asked her mom to call us, she had said, “Many people helped me. Now, I want to help.” After our visit we got the great news from Anahit’s mom that her test results were positive and she had beat cancer. Anahit is now back at home. Hurray!
We want to thank every organization who joined our campaign, and every single person— from Australia to Kuwait, the USA, and Russia—who made an amazing contribution to the project.
We would like to extend a special thank you to:

  • Central Bank for 22 kg of chocolate and 60 Ayl Kerpik intellectual games for kids
  • ARMECONOMBANK for 25 kg of chocolate
  • Byblos Bank for 30 kg of chocolate and an 100,000 AMD donation for boots and coats
  • Asian Development Bank for 22 kg of chocolate and two coats
  • VivaCell MTS for 50 kg of chocolate
  • NASDAQ OMX Armenia for 27 kg of chocolate
  • McCann Ericson Yerevan office for 10 kg of chocolate
  • CIvilnet TV for supporting us and collecting 73 kg of chocolate
  • St. Mesrob Armenian Church of Wisconsin for their $1,345 of support to get boots and coats for 75 kids
  • St. Sarkis Armenian Church of Charlotte for help and a donation of $750 to provide coats and boots for 42 kids
  • St. Mary Armenian Church in Florida for the donation of $200
  • Holy Resurrection Church in Connecticut for the donation of $250
  • Students of the Anania Shirakatsi School for 26 kg of chocolate
  • Students of the Maksedan Private School for 10 kg of chocolate
  • Rights without Borders NGO for 7.5 kg of chocolate
  • DanDessert Cake Factory for 10 kg of chocolate
  • Baguette & Co. for 200 meringue sweets
  • Ameria Bank for 20 kg of chocolate
  • Repat Armenia for collecting chocolate during their 5th anniversary party
  • Aurora Prize Office for 20 kg of chocolate
  • AOByte Company for 15 kg of chocolate
  • Financial Tech Company and their staff for 15 kg of chocolate
  • Tsil Busats Children’s Development Center for 8 kg of chocolate
  • Article 3 Club for 14 kg of chocolate
  • Green Bean Cascade branch for 12 kg of chocolate
  • Armenia Wines Factory for 12 kg of chocolate
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel for preparing their special cookies for 150 kids
  • Media Center Staff for 5 kg of chocolate
  • Rebirth Armenia Foundation for 3 kg of chocolate
  • Impact Hub Yerevan for 2.5 kg of chocolate
  • LAVR LTD for 16 kg of chocolate
  • SNDA LLC for 5 kg of chocolate
  • Transparency International Armenia office for 9 kg of chocolate
  • Center for Development of Agriculture for 9 kg of chocolate
  • Stepanavan Middle School for 7 kg of chocolate
  • Gyumri Civic Youth Center for 3 kg of chocolate
  • MEGAFOOD LLC for 40 kg of chocolate
  • AGBU Armenia office for 13 kg of chocolate
  • Ernst & Young for a 200,000 AMD donation to purchase boots and coats
  • Birthright Armenia for 3 kg of chocolate
  • The Pompeian Family for a donation of $500
    The family of Hagop and Lina Bakhtiarian for making the project a success with their help to get 55 winter coats and boots with their $1,000 donation\
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We also want to thank the following media outlets for their coverage of Chocolate Bank … and More!:

  • Shoghakat TV
  • Yerkir Media TV
  • Public Radio of Armenia

Ararat TV
Thanks to this campaign, a new region was revealed for us—Lori, a region that has many problems but very kind and open-hearted people. We encourage everyone to find time and visit Lori’s villages and communities, if possible, and initiate a community development project in this region, to help these communities ultimately increase their quality of life.
So, while the holidays are now officially over, and our team will plan a Chocolate Bank for 2018, this time we will choose another region where we will visit and try to spread some joy!
Yours,
The Ayo! Elves:

Helena
Laura
Jemma
Armen
Shaghig
Susanna