”Behind the Scenes of an Event”

Never could I imagine that being a volunteer during the preparation for a fundraising event might be so fun and memorable. It was nearly a year ago when our Ayo! team organized an event at Kharberd’s Specialized Orphanage where I participated as a volunteer. The preparations started the day before, and since lots of food and other decorations had to be prepared beforehand, we gathered in the orphanage to help the staff and workers. As soon as I stepped into the building, a tiny, lively figure suddenly ran from the other side of the corridor and jumped on me. While I was trying to figure out what was happening, the lovely little creature with two ponytails started kissing and hugging me without stopping. This young person was a little girl with Down...

World No Tobacco Day Celebrated by Ayo! team

On May 31st, recognized internationally as “World No Tobacco Day,” the Ayo! team headed to Charles Aznavour square, one of the most beloved spots of residents and guests of Yerevan. The team actively promoted the benefits of no smoking habits, and highlighted the effects of smoke on non-smokers— especially children. While several team members distributed leaflets to raise awareness, others invited smokers to sacrifice their cigarettes in exchange for menthol candies with fliers detailing the health impacts of second-hand smoke on smokers and non-smokers.       We received active media coverage of the event, partly...

Will you join us?

As a Diasporan Armenian college student, I’ve often considered the role I could play in affecting change in Hayastan. I felt powerless for a long time--without a way to bridge the gap of 6,000 miles. Ayo! offered me a way to bridge this gap, to engage in small ways and big ways-- and thus, Ayo! is one of the most important initiatives I’ve ever engaged in. In 2015, Birthright Armenia gave me the opportunity to immerse myself into my culture, and Ayo! gave me a way to prove my passion and commitment. Since the first week of May 2015, I’ve spent time alongside my Armenian colleagues each week, pouring my talents, emotions, and time into promoting and furthering Ayo!’s mission. * * * My grandmother,...

12 Seedlings For Christmas

The holidays are upon us. Most of us have begun the search for that perfect and unique gift for each of our loved ones. If you are looking for that unconventional gift that holds meaning and priceless value, Ayo!’s current project, Planting Roots, is worth considering.   Planting Roots aims to build a greenhouse at the Vanadzor Children Support Center. With 12 days left until Christmas, let us share with you the 12 ways you will help, 12 seedlings you...

Story Behind the Shot

We verified the check-list: Morning coffee, warm and comfortable clothes, started the car, arrived at the meeting point right on time, and we were off towards Lake Sevan with a colleague. The road was icy and the going slow, so we had to entertain ourselves with more topics to chat about until we reached our final destination about an hour later than we usually did. Our final destination: the city of Gavar – one of the coldest cities in Armenia, so, of course, we could expect even more snow there. We were visiting Gavar special school where around 70 children with disabilities study, many of them being in wheelchairs. As you can see the school has two floors, so as to make children move around the building independently we raised money to build an elevator in the school. That day was...

Happy Thanksgiving From Ayo!

Growing up, I vividly remember my tatik reminding my cousins and me that Thanksgiving is a time for introspection and meditation—a time to consider the unexpected joys and blessings of the past year. We’d like to thank you, dear donor, for being a part of our Ayo! family and saying ‘yes!’ with hundreds of others around the world. Together, we thank each one of you who raised your voice with ours to say Ayo! to Breathe Freely, Hippotherapy, Music School, and Gifts to Schoolchildren this year! Your passion and support is a blessing—a bright fire that illumines and enriches our efforts to forge a better future for Armenia. This Thanksgiving, we hope that you will take a moment to reflect upon the lives you have touched and the many that your generosity has...

What is a defibrillator

Many of us don’t even know what a defibrillator is. So, let’s start from the beginning: What exactly is a defibrillator? It is a device that can save a person’s life in mere seconds. If we break it down into very simple terms we could say that a defibrillator is a machine that transfers electric currents to a heart that has stopped beating, which essentially jolt it back into action so that it starts pumping again. In many western European countries and in the United States you can find many of these devices in public places like parking lots, metro stations, airports and shopping malls. That’s not always the case for Armenia, however. Back in 2013 we found...

Checklist for Successful Crowdfunding Campaign by Ayo!

When you have a project idea in mind, the next step is to think of how to finance it. The sources for funding can vary: applying for grants, teaming up with a big company, taking a loan from the bank, etc. But one alternative way to finance your project is through crowdfunding, which has become more and more popular in the past couple of years worldwide. Armenia is also keeping up with the rhythm of these changes and has developed and progressed in this relatively new field too. Ayo! is an Armenian crowdfunding platform, whose goal is to encourage young Armenians to create unique sustainable development projects for Armenia. If you want to be successful in your crowdfunding campaign, here are some important tips, which Ayo! has compiled for you: Plan, plan...

How Ayo! Will Promote A Healthy Lifestyle in Artsakh

For our ancestors, a strong body was essential for survival: walking long distances, lifting heavy objects and hard labour were part of their day-to-day activities. For thousands of years mankind payed attention to physical fitness. They created different types of sports: from gymnastics in China, swimming and fishing in Egypt, to the different forms of martial arts in Persia. Sports and athletic activities were created not just to entertain the higher-class audience, but also to preserve and maintain healthier bodies. It is long-known that physical strength is tied to a healthy body, which in turn is a strong factor for improving the soundness of the mind. In this principal the old Latin quote “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a sound body) was translated into...

The Story Behind Our “Sweat & Burn” Campaign

Ayo! is building its “Healthy Hearts for Artsakh” campaign - aimed to establish free street workout facilities - around a very interesting and satirical topic; failing to go to the gym. During our research, we uncovered that 67% of the people who buy gym memberships never use them; for the remaining 33%, only half use the membership on regular basis, with most people failing to pass the FIVE-MONTH mark. Although, many attempt and fail to go to the gym, these days working out and exercising are the most trending activities amongst youth. Weather going to the gym, early morning runs by the beach or taking the yoga mat to the nearby park for a session, a lot of young people are making sure they have that Facebook check-in...

Fairy Tales

From the day we are born until our older days, each of us are surrounded by fairy tales and myths. From the ancient times to our postmodern era, society’s common proverbs and wisdom were transferred from one generation to the next with the help of fairy tales. It is thus no surprise that modern psychology explores the impact of fairy tales on human behavior. Fairy tale therapy uses the influence of fairy tales to address several aspects of life, including education, personal growth, and change of behavior. This method is effective for children as well as for adults. Fairy tale therapy helps psychologists to overcome the psychological wall between them and their patients and to enable them to work on issues or...

My Third Masiv Family

I swear I caught a glimpse of heaven’s love when I visited FAR’s soup kitchen in third Masiv last Thursday. There, I witnessed something unlike anything I had ever seen before: love and warmth in its most pure, beautiful and unbiased form. This love was displayed as a strong and powerful force flowing through the smiles and eyes and voices of each one of the FAR staff members working at the soup kitchen. This love was evident in the gratitude that radiated from the soup kitchen beneficiaries, those upon whom hard times had fallen most cruel. After finishing their meals of delicious bread, lentils and kampot each recipient remained at the kitchen to chat, to laugh or to tell a story. One wonderful woman even sang two chillingly beautiful songs...

Little Nane Has Big Things to Say

I love good quality music. And I love it even more if it’s produced in Armenia. I think there’s potential to put Armenia on the music map with all the talent we have available. So what else to do but support them? That’s basically how it all began. Ayo! had a meeting with the rock band Dogma because we wanted to find some ways to work together pretty much because we just love their music. And we’re not the only ones. We were after a partnership with the band and for something big or small, be it a joint project, an activity or a concert. During our discussions the band’s producer Vartan mentioned that Dogma had been working on and off for about a year on a song...

Ayo!’s Present

One day we started discussing how we could give a present to our Ayo! friends and make some news at the same time. We came up with an idea and by cooperating with Photo Atelier Marashlian in Yerevan we made it happen: A public photo booth in Yerevan that would encapsulate and celebrate Armenian culture during the most important week of the year, the recognition of 100 years since the Armenian Genocide. We decided that photos should include Armenian traditional dresses called taraz, and we knew this would turn out to be something interesting. So on April 20th we installed a small stage in Republic Square where people could come and take photos with our model Ellen dressed in taraz. The background was a big photo of Ani and there was an old...

The Miracle of Kharberd Orphanage

We start the year with preparation for a new and exciting project. Did you know that horses are the most loyal animals? With the help of a horse a person cannot only have a great experience and enjoy moments of freedom, but they can also lean on them as a means of therapy if they have a physical disability. Few people in Armenia actually know about hippo therapy – or the process of alleviating the pain from a disease with the help of a horse. There are only two places in Armenia that have hippo therapy. One of them is in the village of Ushi, and the other one is at the Kharberd Orphanage near Yerevan. A couple of days ago the Ayo! team visited Kharberd, played with some of the...

The Spirit of Giving

When I walk down the streets these days I see a lot of people buying Christmas gifts. Why do we give each other presents during Christmas? And why does giving give us such a good feeling? The answer to the first question is that the main reason we have the custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas–it’s to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the three Wise Men. The Wise Men gave Jesus frankincense, gold and myrrh. And we feel good when we give because giving connects us to others, which makes it possible to create stronger communities. It is actually proven that giving is connected to happiness, health and personal growth. During Christmas children believe that Santa Claus delivers presents to...

Music Connects Us To Each Other

Music contains emotion, yet it isn’t made for joy only; sometimes it’s an attempt to transmit a message to the world. Sometimes we can’t describe the feelings we have with words but we can deliver them through sound. This, in essence, is where lies the power in music, which can bring people together. Last summer, I was sitting in a bus to Yerevan. I had a two-hour trip ahead of me and the only way to kill the time was to listen to music and sing songs. Another volunteer named Emilia from the U.S., offered us to listen to her playlist. I almost knew every song but Emilia, who thought that people in Holland don’t listen to the same music as people in America, was nearly shocked every time I started to sing along. “Do they really play this song in Holland?” she would ask. It was...

Armenia: The Struggle Leads To Good People

Many families in Armenia don’t have enough money. While we work hard to enjoy our lives, they work hard to ensure that they can survive. The economic situation in Armenia is getting better but for most people it’s not the way it should be. I have visited a lot of different places in Armenia – Gyumri, Yerevan, Dilijan, Tzagkadzor, Meghri, Kapan and Sevan (I may have even forgotten to mention of few of them here). This has made it possible for me to see Armenia from different angles. The thing that I am most fascinated by is the fact that the more difficult life is, the better a person is for it. This it might sound confusing for those of you reading this. And of course, what I am telling you is what I alone have experienced; it’s not an observation that rings true for everyone. The fact that this has fascinated me for quite some time has...

New Braille Printers? Check!

The Ayo! team delivered two brand new Braille printers to Special School No. 14 in Yerevan. With a lot of enthusiasm, energy and balloons we stepped out of the car upon arrival only to be greeted by the school’s director. He led us to the room where we could install the printers so they would be ready to use. It was special to see how happy the director was, thanking us profusely for the printers and explaining once again the importance. Braille books are essential tools for blind children. They are their gateway to literacy and their strongest tools for learning. These facts make us especially happy and proud –proud that we could give them these printers and proud that our hard work and the support from our Ayo! friends led to this opportunity. After decorating the room...

Ayo! is Growing Up

This week we celebrated Ayo!’s first birthday at Cantaloupe pub and we welcomed all of our Ayo! friends to the party. The best part was that they didn’t just come for the cake—they came for us! (Trust me.) We took this opportunity to celebrate all of the achievements of our first year. Ayo! made it possible for 100 visually impaired kids to get an equal education by providing them with a Braille printer. Have you ever thought about how important it is for these children to have books? Braille books are essential tools for aiding the literacy process of blind children. With the printer the school can now make these books accessible to all of its students. So, with this gift we gave them an opportunity to expand their horizons. These children can now have updated books and they are very thankful for it. This is our reward. We also gave 70 children with physical disabilities...

From the Soup Kitchen with Love

What do we need to do to make someone smile? Do we have to give presents? Do we have to make a joke? Do we have to give money? Or is it enough to share some words with someone? Let me tell you an interesting story about making people smile by only giving someone a smile. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make someone happy. It’s 9 in the morning and my host mom calls me for breakfast. After washing my face I walk to the kitchen. She greets me with a warm smile and serves me a delicious bowl of soup. While eating breakfast, my host mom is asking me questions about last night. Knowing that I will meet Armen in a few minutes, I drink my Armenian coffee and get dressed quickly. We meet and head to the Soup Kitchen. With Ayo!’s...

Thanksgiving: a day to say thank you

While the Ayo! team has been very busy working on thank you emails for Thanksgiving, I recently realized that I have never really thought about the meaning of Thanksgiving. As a Dutch girl I have never celebrated Thanksgiving. And as a Dutch girl I never wondered what Thanksgiving really meant. So I did a little bit of research and this is what I found: Thanksgiving is celebrated primarily in the United States and in Canada. It’s a day when families and friends come together and have a nice dinner together. During this dinner they are often eating a turkey and a lot of other delicious things like pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. Basically this whole day is about reflecting. Back in the day it was about being thankful for the blessings of the harvest...

Hi everyone!
Meet the new Ayo! Ambassador

I’m very excited to announce that I am Ayo!’s new ambassador. My name is Talin Yakob and I am 21 years old. I have been living in The Netherlands for the past 18 years, ever since my parents fled the danger in Iraq. They were looking for a safe place to go and this safe place turned out to be Holland. My parents picked the right place, indeed. (Thank you, mom and dad.) Life has been good for us there. Yet, even though I seemingly had all the comforts in the world there has always been something missing in my life. I have been searching for this “something” in vain for a long time, trying to figure out what it is. One day I decided that I might find it in Armenia. Maybe I was missing home? I never felt truly at home in The Netherlands, so...

Ayo! Successfully Funds its Protective Wall Campagin

Ayo! last week succeeded in raising all funds for its Protective Walls project. Through the support of so many who helped to donate or contribute to Ayo!’s selfie campaign, the team was able to raise enough to start building. Special thanks goes to FAR Board Chairman Randy Sapah-Gulian who helped to close the final gap. Ayo! will now move ahead on building the four three-meter-high walls around the school in Aygepar. Children will be able to safely use their playground during recess and will no longer live in fear of being struck by cross-border shooting. The future of the people in Aygepar will be brighter and safer. All of us wish to...

JOIN US TODAY TO BECOME AN AYO! AMBASSADOR

Exciting news! We here at Ayo! are very proud to announce our new Ayo! Ambassador program. It’s been a long time in the making and we are happy to get this underway. Anyone who is interested can be an ambassador for Ayo! It’s a chance to tell the world about us, our work, and why they should care about Ayo! as much as you do. Contact Jemma, Ayo! Project Manager, for more information and we will send you a package that will describe how you can help us. If you want to look for a unique long-term experience this is the right program for you. Together with Birthright Armenia,...

[Ayo!]: Sharing Food and Smiles

September 29, 2014 1:15 pm After successfully completing their first fully funded project – purchasing new kitchenware for three of FAR’s soup kitchens – the Ayo! team decided to celebrate with a surprise for beneficiaries. Ayo! Project Director Armen Anmeghikyan, Project Manager Jemma Safaryan and Community Director Helena Melkonyan, along with FAR Soup Kitchen Coordinator Rafik Martirosyan, personally delivered the new kitchenware to the Berd, Yerevan and Gyumri soup kitchens touched by this project. FAR’s Soup Kitchens Program benefits men and women of retirement age as well as low-income families. Every weekday the soup kitchens provide a nutritious meal consisting of soup, a main...

[Young Professionals Trip]: YPT Alumni Reunite in NYC

August 29, 2014 10:05 am Recently, FAR hosted a reunion for the Young Professionals Trip’s alumni in New York City. On May 29th, several alumni gathered on the Diocesan Plaza for a night of great music, delicious food, and engaging conversation. Participants from trips as far back as 1996 shared their experiences – allowing each other to track the progression of the trips. As guests joyfully reminisced to their time in Armenia, they were also introduced to a new way of engaging in positive development in Armenia: FAR’s crowdfunding platform and civic initiative Ayo! raises funds for local solutions to local challenges in Armenia and implements these projects through FAR. The Young Professionals Trip (YPT) serves to bring together the diasporan community to...

[Ayo!]: Schoolchildren in Yerevan Join Crowdfunding Effort to Keep Their Friends on the Border Safe

September 8, 2014 10:00 am September 1 in Armenia is traditionally the first day of school and Knowledge Day – a festive day for schoolchildren, their parents, and their teachers. It’s known for traffic jams, new backpacks, and lavish bouquets for teachers. This year, the Leo Tolstoy Public School #128 along with Yerevan Productions held a “September 1st Without Flowers” initiative, where students were encouraged to donate the funds that they would have spent on flowers to Ayo!’s Protective Walls project. And so, with the participation of every single student of the school, $920 was raised to build a wall around the kindergarten and school of the Armenian village of Aygepar that is constantly...

[Ayo!]: Yes! We Want to Protect our Children!

The square in front of the Moscow Cinema in Armenia hosted the coolest and most fun fundraising event of the year on July 19. The Ayo! team and volunteers featured their Protective Walls project to build protective walls around the kindergarten and the school of the Aygepar Village in the northeastern region of Armenia. Whether people were in the square to see the presentations of the Golden Apricot Film Festival, to take in some open air tunes of a local big band, or just to sit by the fountain and enjoy a cool evening, scores of them also included a visit to the Ayo! crew in their leisurely evening. Numerous passers-by stopped to become part of this important initiative for Aygepar and in a mere two...

[Ayo!] Happy Children are our Best Investment

FAR’s crowdfunding platform and civic initiative in Armenia Ayo! has jumped on the “Happy” train. On June 1, Ayo! released a video to celebrate Children’s Day that features children from all regions of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh dancing along to the infectiously upbeat song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. In joining the “Happy” movement that has taken over the world, Ayo! aims to show that children can be happy no matter where they live and how they live. It is up to each and every one of us to protect children’s happiness so that they can...