Raised in an impoverished village in Armenia, Mariam has hardly left her home in nearly 20 years. Confined to a wheel chair because of her cerebral palsy, Mariam never went to school or learned to read and write. She spent her days sitting outside, looking for children to talk to as they passed by and inviting them to play.
“We were launching a theater group with the involvement of children with special needs,” explained Tamara, a psychologist with a CFC-supported organization. “[The organization was] recruiting children when we met Mariam. We knew she desperately needed to socialize and be a part of a group.”
When the organization invited Mariam to take part in a theater performance, she was overjoyed. Mariam wrote a script called “Let’s Be Friends” and began rehearsing. Another girl with cerebral palsy joined the group shortly after.
“What [the organization] did for my daughter was invaluable,” shared Mariam’s mom, Marine. “Rehearsals are the happiest moments of her life. She even wants to become an actress! Before theater, Mariam had no friends – nor anyone to talk to. All her life she dreamed of playing with kids but her only companions have been her cats. Now she keeps saying she is not alone anymore. The kids in her theater group really love her and treat her well. Our life has dramatically changed.”
Tamara believes that the project also has started altering villagers’ perceptions of disability. “They have learned that people with disabilities are just like them, they were simply born with different abilities. They are also learning to treat them as their equals, not with pity. Our goal is to reduce the stigma of physical disability – changing that mindset in our villagers is important work.”
This is but one story illustrating this organization’s impact. In the 12 years since they began implementing programs in education, healthcare, community and economic development, this CFC-supported organization has transformed the lives of 67,000 rural children and their families in 44 villages of Armenia.