human development, social justice and sustainable social systems
Caritas Armenia: Astonishing results profile organisation as the provider of high quality social and health services to the poor in Armenia
Armenian Caritas is arriving to a watershed moment in its history. During the period 2017-2019 the Armenian government will decide on national rules regarding the care and protection of elder, children and children and juniors with disabilities.
Armenian Caritas is working hard to promote its own models as the best option for the needs of the Armenian population. Armenian Caritas serves 150,000 people every year through some 40 programmes, including 9 permanent centres in 5 provinces (Shirak, Lori, Gegharkunik, Ararat and the City of Yerevan). That represents more than 5% of the country’s total population and over 11% of the total amount of poor (37% of the population) in the country. These impressive figures are achieved with just 200 staff members and 80 volunteers. These remarkable achievements have profiled Armenian Caritas as the provider of high quality social and health services to the poor in Armenia.
Gagik Tarasyan is the executive director of Armenian Caritas. Gagik is very proud of these results. However, he is also very much aware that this is not the time to rest on one’s laurels. The next years are filled with political decisions of the highest importance for Armenian Caritas. Therefore, Gagik and his team have been working on a comprehensive advocacy and communication strategy covering the period 2017-2019. The document aims at reinforcing the profile of Caritas Armenia and raise awareness of its work among the Armenian population in the country and abroad, stakeholders and decision-makers.
The work of Caritas Armenia up to this date yields really impressing figures. How would you describe the work and processes behind this success story?
Gagik – These results are the fruits of over 20 years of hard work. I am very proud of them and thankful to all our employees and volunteers for their commitment. Looking for donors, finding the venues where from deliver the services, hire the best professionals. It has been a wonderful adventure. And the best part of it is that we are helping people, even changing destinies. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians living in poverty and social exclusion have found solutions to some of their most basic needs in Caritas.
And now Caritas Armenia is looking at the period 2017-2019. During these years the government could recognise Caritas Armenia’ model of care and protection of the elder, child, and children and juniors with disabilities as replicable models to be used nationwide by governmental institutions. Additionally, Caritas Armenia hopes to gain a governamental 10% co-financial support of its existing programmes from the government. How are you proceeding to achieve these 2 objectives and what is at stake?
Gagik – Yes. We are intensifying our interaction with governmental representatives and the local authorities. It is a fact that our model is the best in the country and even in the whole Caucasus. And they know it. We need to ensure that no one else convinces them to opt for cheaper alternatives of lesser quality. That would be a shame for the 1.1 million people living in poverty in Armenia. So our job now is to insist, insist and insist again that the government must put people at the core of their policies and aim at filling the existing gaps in our social policies with solutions of the highest quality. Insist that investing in programmes like ours is investing in the future of the country.
Regarding the co-financing, this would be an important step towards long-term sustainability for our projects, and therefore for the people in need of such services.
Maintaining such an intense level of advocacy for 3 years will probably be very exhausting for an organisation with limited human and financial resources. How are you going to cope with it?
Gagik – We have several ideas. We recently launched a public call for volunteers to help us. This was the first time we did so. And the results were impressive. We had hundreds of applications from highly skilled young people. We also invited interns and a big number of graduates eagerly wished to work with Armenian Caritas. We are also planning to ask for financial support to our sister organisations across our network.
I seize the occasion to invite them to contact me if they would like to engage in this thrilling 3 year-long experience. 2017 to 2019 could be the years of Caritas in Armenia. We can become much stronger and therefore, the whole Caritas Europa can be much stronger! Like Pope Francis made a pilgrimage to the first Christian state and released doves, we wish followers of His Holiness will visit our ancient and beautiful country and support it, releasing its strength and potential.