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Holding a refugee family together in Lebanon



By Cara Taylor | Jinishian Memorial Program

As a young teen, Lori fled Syria with her mother, brother and sister, leaving her father behind to work. Her family stretched across impossible barriers. Relatives seeking refuge crowded their Beirut apartment. It was difficult to keep afloat in Lebanon’s worsening economy, let alone pay for Lori’s school. 

Adrift, she was losing any vision she once had for her young life.

Lori’s mother sought financial help from the Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP), an outreach of cooperating Armenian churches. Beyond the immediate relief provided, JMP counseling gave her the encouragement she needed to press on and find direction for herself and her daughter. The social worker’s faithful follow-up inspired Lori to make her own commitment for a better future.

Jinishian teen birthday partyLori joined the Teen Self-Development program in which JMP provides full tuition for technical school and a community of trust for girls at-risk for trafficking. They are all dealing with pressures to bring income to the family. The young women gather to learn life skills in JMP’s Kurkjian Center and to have fun like any other teenager. Many of them may have never celebrated a birthday with friends.

For Lori’s displaced family, they take one step of faith at a time. Life beyond poverty glimmers ahead.

Mom took on a second job to support her older children. They are pursuing higher education in yet another country, Armenia. Inspired by Lori’s tenacity, her brother and sister enrolled in university there. Lori is nearing completion of high school in Lebanon and looks forward to her own future. 

Despite their hardship, Lori’s family bridges the divisions of borders and war.

Jinishian teen developmentFamily is also a bridge to the past. The invisible bond leading many Armenian-Americans to remember generations before is what started the Jinishian Memorial Program over 50 years ago. The generous diaspora community in America still sustains Jinishian’s work today. It’s a way to honor victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and to support Armenian brothers and sisters still striving in Lebanon.

As the Christian population in the Middle East continues to decline, supporting sustainable communities is a lifeline for families like Lori’s. JMP programs empower families to find jobs, improve their relationships and stay together. Vocational education prevents school dropouts and child labor. Social workers address threats of domestic violence, human trafficking, drug addiction, legal and health issues. Local staff give comfort, and encourage perseverance and trust in God when adversity strikes.

Beyond the Teen Self-Development program, JMP contributes to economic stability through pathways to home ownership. Low- to no-interest loans help small businesses and those needing critical home repair.

Most of the outreach JMP offers refugees from Syria is help with medical needs. Often they arrive with no health coverage. JMP medical services make sure people get the help they need. Stress from government and economic instability makes people more vulnerable to illness, homelessness, broken relationships and broken spirits. Holistic community health programs and services include medication for chronic illnesses, wellness and prevention education, help with bills, and residential psychiatric care.

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.

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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.