In 2005, the AECP expanded its holiday screening program, visiting three orphanages and two boarding schools in Yerevan.
First, the AECP Mobile Eye Hospital (MEH) team revisited old friends at the Nork and Zatik orphanages. “The visits have become a tradition,” said Nork Director Liana Karapetyan.
Then, the MEH team added three new institutions to its schedule: the Zeitun Special Orphanage, the Vardashen boarding school and the Nubarashen boarding school.
Kristine Grigoryan, who has worked as a nurse at the Vardashen boarding school for two years, feels like she is part of something special. “I love the work,” she says, “There is a feeling of fulfillment, of being a part of a big, caring family, and we are glad that AECP has joined this family.”
The children at Zeitun, Zatik and Nubarashen were treated to a puppet show about the importance of health and blindness prevention. The show, produced as part of a public education project funded by the Jinishian Memorial Foundation and staged by UNIMA-Armenia, was a success.
According to Armen Safaryan, President of UNIMA-Armenia, puppetry is an especially effective way of communicating the message of health and prevention to impressionable young children.
“Entertainment is a very effective means of educating,” Safaryan said. “It was very rewarding to see children smile and to hear words of thanks from their teachers.”
In the five-day period, from January 31, 2005 to February 4, 2005, nearly 400 children and 20 staff members were screened. Of those, 77 were referred to the Malayan Ophthalmological Center in Yerevan for further evaluation and treatment.
Narek, a student at the Nubarashen boarding school and then only 11 years old, already knew the great value of having — and maintaining — healthy vision. If he could not see, he says, “I would not be able to see the facial expressions of the people I talk to… I would not understand what they really mean. I would not see the faces of my loved ones.”
The AECP continues to build on the success of its holiday screening program, focusing on early detection and improving the health awareness of the children in Yerevan’s orphanages and boarding schools.