The new economic chaos in the world has already caused rising poverty in Armenia. The staff at the Tufenkian Foundation now regularly reports shocking situations where people lack decent shelter, are unable to make utility paymen’s, or can’t meet basic food and health needs. Due to rising prices and growing unemployment, the social services NGO Zankagatun, a Tufenkian Foundation-funded initiative, has been inundated with urgent calls for help as alcoholism, abandonment, and starvation spread.
The difficulties facing a woman named Armine, who Zankagatun just began assisting in recent weeks, are typical examples of the effects of this crisis. Unemployment had driven her husband to alcoholism, which led to abuse. She fled with two young children and began living in a barn. While trying to work, Armine left her five-year-old alone each day to care for her two-year-old. The only food Armine could afford was sweetened water, so both children quickly reached advanced stages of malnutrition. What little money she had scraped together cleaning neighbors’ toilets was not enough to avoid being evicted from the barn.
Cases like Armine’s are no longer rare. Families that used to be able to afford the bare minimum are now often left in the streets. To make matters worse, Armenia’s government is denying how bad the problem is–so far, they have largely ignored or covered up, rather than risk admitting any failure to protect the people. At this point, most emergency protection is coming from NGOs and informal support networks.
With this in mind, the Tufenkian Foundation has set up an emergency fund for the neediest cases. The fund will disburse small amounts for occasional help to people with terrible problems. Amounts can vary from $30 for a utility payment, to $100 to repair someone’s roof, to $300 for emergency health care. Because the fund is being administered by an existing Tufenkian Foundation project, it represents zero overhead, meaning every dollar contributed, without exception, goes directly to Armenia’s neediest–the Foundation’s existing staff and resources will ensure that that is done, and done quickly.
To kick things off, James Tufenkian has contributed $25,000 to the fund, over and beyond the larger funds he gives toward the Foundation’s budget each year. The Foundation hopes that friends and supporters will collectively match and surpass Tufenkian’s contribution, offering the direct assistance that will help keep Armenia’s on their feet until this crisis subsides.
Those interested in contributing to the Emergency Relief Fund should contact Rick Barry at 212.475.2475 x384 or RBarry@Tufenkian.com.