AIWA-SF Making Strides at Mer Hooys Program
By Gaiane Khachatrian
It was in summer of 2013 when I first met Lilit, who was 14, at the opening ceremony of the Nakashian Children’s Support Center in Armenia run by The House of Hope – Mer Hooys program that the Armenian International Women’s Association San Francisco affiliate (AIWA-SF) has been partnering with since the affiliate’s inception, providing after school educational opportunities to teenage girls coming from disadvantaged families. I noticed Lilit instantly. Her eyes expressed sadness and she was very quiet compared to the other girls that had just arrived at the center, which was going to be their home until they graduate from high school. The image of her sad eyes stayed with me for a very long time.
As an organization sponsoring educational programs at Mer Hooys, AIWA – SF would periodically receive updates on the girls’ academic standing from the instructors. I was very pleased to know that Lilit was one of the students that was progressing fairly quickly in learning English language, standing out among her peers.
In one of our earlier interviews with Lilit she said, “Success is possible if we work hard, and do our best. I am very passionate about reading, but my long-term objective is to become an accountant and be the best specialist in my area that I can be”. Those were apparently not just words that Lilit uttered. During my recent visit to the Nakashian Children’s Support Center in Yerevan I learned that Lilit had just been accepted to the Armenian State University of Economics, scoring 18.5 on her English exam with 20 being the highest score. I spent some time chatting with her at the center. She was very polite, respectful and most importantly very determined to do everything in her power to build a better future for herself.
It was a different Lilit from what I saw years ago, but the sadness in her glowing eyes was still there. I asked her where she wanted to be a few years from now, and she responded with a smile on her face, “I want to graduate from the college, get married, have children and love them unconditionally.”
There is something else that Lilit will pursue at some point in her life- find her sister Marianna, who was adopted by an Italian family at the age of six and moved to Italy. Lilit was thirteen at the time when she had to be separated from her little sister. I knew there was something very painful inside the 14-year-old girl that I met in 2013.
Lilit is on her way to pursue her dreams, and I know we will hear more about her success in the future. She deserves a better future, and so do all the girls at the Mer Hooys program. It is very gratifying for all of us at AWIA –SF to realize that we are making difference in the girls’ lives.