The voice for people who aren’t being heard

24 May 2020

By Nane Vardanyan,
Photos by: Knar Babayan

3 min read

A neglected child whose parents took her back from the orphanage.

A disabled kid who was finally able to attend his local school.

A villager who started to receive 8 times as much as her monthly salary.

A couple whose relationship was smoothed out and their family was reunited.

These are some of the stories COAF social workers will tell you when asked about the role our social work services play in the lives of COAF beneficiaries.

Our social workers are critical members of our team who have been working diligently to better the lives of our beneficiaries in need. Whether it’s a poverty, discrimination, disability, abuse, or unemployment issue, they are always there to help our villagers.

Since 2006, COAF has been working both with children and adults in vulnerable families. Nowadays, we have two models of social work services at COAF:

  • The SMART model
  • The Village program model

COAF SMART center is the only non-formal educational institution in Armenia that provides social work services to all the beneficiaries attending the center. Through their commitment to bringing positive social change, our specialists work with attendees of all ages both before and during their enrollment. Besides, before starting their programs, all COAF students take part in the Intro Week that includes an introduction to human rights, a topic that is lacking in many public schools.

Introduction to human rights during the Intro Week at the COAF SMART Center.

In the case of the Village programs, our social workers closely collaborate with local governing bodies and community leaders to discern disadvantaged families and learn how they can help. Our approach is individual and systematic, that is to say, we try to forge a unique solution to each case and inclusively work with a family, community, and school or other institution at the same time.

Nakhshun Afanessian, our Social Work Coordinator, has worked in the field for 8 years. According to her, common problems they encounter with include domestic violence, relationship issues, and child labor.  “We encourage independence and self-sufficiency among our beneficiaries. A huge part of our work is also towards fighting unemployment and breaking negative stereotypes that affect many lives.”

Nakhshun Afanessian during a staff training.

Considering that domestic violence is an important issue in Armenia, our social workers have been striving to spread awareness about it. They conduct community outreach activities on human rights, ToT training and flash-mobs throughout the year.

Children participating in a flash-mob against domestic violence in Shirak region.

In 2019, our social workers organized a summer school for human rights, targeting the communities of Lori, Shirak, and Armavir regions. Participants were introduced to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, discussed several rights, and found out more about the formation of the human rights-based approach.

COAF social workers are the voice for people who aren’t being heard. The impact behind the stories of their years-long commitment proves that they go beyond helping people with the basic needs in life into addressing underlying issues that prevent social change.

The diary of COAF Alumni in times of war

Every house has a story from Artsakh