By Cara Taylor | Jinishian Memorial Program
Armenia’s “velvet revolution” made history when peaceful protests in Spring 2018 unseated decades of entrenched authoritarian rule and corruption. Unlike any other post-Soviet states, Armenia’s rapid shift toward a more transparent democracy has ushered in a season of freedom without a single shot fired.
Freedom to lead with justice
Twenty-year-old Manya Grigoryan was one of hundreds of thousands of citizens on the streets of Yerevan. She says she’s come a long way from the shy eighth-grader who joined a debate club sponsored by the Jinishian Memorial Program. Jinishian’s extensive debate and youth leadership programs for middle school through university engage 5,000 students like Manya each year. Over the past decade, the programs have contributed to major shifts away from the apathy that clutched the generations emerging from communism.
Manya discovered a passion for debate and rose to leadership of her college team at the French University of Armenia. But the group had to start the April 2018 Jinishian Debate Championship without her.
“For many years I have been a carrier of democratic ideas, and after each debate I have promised myself never to ignore the issues,” Manya explains about her decision to join the demonstrations. “And now, the time to stand up for all these problems had come.”
Manya doesn’t consider herself a revolution hero, but she is proud to be part of it thanks to the civic consciousness and drive for solutions that she gained through debate. She believes that the “culprit” is her continuous involvement with Jinishian as she pursued justice in public life.
Freedom to work with dignity
A weak economy drives many young people to emigrate out of Armenia for jobs. At age 25, Arthur Papyan, was ready to leave his hometown for Russia. But thanks to an intensive IT training course through Jinishian, he found a well-paying job nearby. Arthur is proud to work in his homeland and to volunteer with the IT students: “I hope my determination is a good example. I tell them not to give up.”
Freedom from fear
Anush Aslanyan is a pioneer in spirit, but she struggled with anxiety and a physical handicap.
Getting involved in Jinishian leadership and debate programs as a college student helped Anush to develop problem-solving skills and courage to overcome her challenges. Involvement in civic action projects also equipped her to start a nonprofit organization.
Now Anush is growing her own small business with financing and an established entrepreneur-mentor through the Youth Business Development project.
Vartan Jinishian saw the need of his people and realized he could do something about it, entrusting his legacy gift through the PC(USA) in 1966. Today the Jinishian Memorial Program is on the front lines supporting Armenian communities throughout the Middle East and Armenia, upending the roots of poverty, building up farms, businesses, health and faith. Local teams see this impact every day, sharing God’s love and bringing real solutions to improve the lives of 100,000 people a year.
From poverty and despair to self-sufficiency and hope! For Armenian communities living with poverty who see no way out, your involvement empowers them with a chance at a different life.