BARI TNAK

BARI TNAK

KINDNESS TAKING OVER ARMENIA

In January of 2019, Bari Tnak inclusive center opened its doors, setting the start of an unprecedented approach to children with special needs and their families in Armenia.

Text : Margarit Mirzoyan    Photo : Bari tnak archive

 

 

The story of Bari Tnak (“Kind House”) started with a little boy who was born with a physical disability. Having no idea of how to provide their child with decent care, his parents decided to leave him in the hospital. The story was streamed via news and in the same evening, a group of women came to the hospital to offer their help to the child and his family. They managed to return the child to his biological family providing them with both material and psychological support. These women decided to continue their path and eventually Bari Mama (“Kind Mama”) charitable organization was established by Marina Adulyan, aimed at preventing the abandonment of newborn children with disabilities. The organization has an inclusive approach which covers both parents and children, also assists the process of integration of those children into their families and society in general. As a result of their devoted work, 107 children have remained in their families. Today, the initial team has over 15 members, there is a Board of Trustees including healthy lifestyle activist and DJ Arusik Mkrtchyan and businesswoman, philanthropist Gayane Poghosyan. There are also 8000 volunteer mothers who participate in the events and assist the initiative. Everyone volunteers with warmth and kindness as the only income for their work. At the beginning of 2019, the project found its logical continuation in the face of the newly established Bari Tnak inclusive center, which embodies the whole vision of Bari Mama NGO.

Social support - children with disabilities - Bari Tnak

The center operates in several directions. First, it offers various therapies for children with disabilities who reside in the orphanages, gives them a place to stay after they reach the age when they are to leave the orphanage, helps them find a job and provides them with a “survival kit” as they enter the adult life. The center also organizes special training for the parents, teaching them how to take care of their child who has a physical or mental disability. Finally, the center provides temporary asylum to mothers who have children with special needs but refuse to hand them over to the orphanage under the pressure of their families and as a result leave their homes. Bari Tnak also offers all possible support to such families and children, including psychological help, rehabilitation care, provision with all the necessary products and providing legal assistance with zero charges.

“We don’t only aim to provide them with shelter and support, we want to change the overall perception of these people and help them become full members of the society,” says Arusik Mkrtchyan, the board member of the NGO.

Social support

At the initial stage, the Public Diplomacy charitable organization assisted the NGO in the purchase of the site for the center, and many celebrities joined the project making the story vocal around the public. The center also received support from AGBU in the frame of Bridg4CSOs EU-funded program for non-profits. The System of a Down’s Serj Tankian and his wife Angela continuously support the project, the singer even put his drum set at an auction for this purpose. Many companies provide products or discounts for their services. Last year, the NGO initiated over 50 events to raise money for the center and their beneficiaries. At the beginning of the construction phase, they announced a “Give One Stone” campaign which initiated a large-scale activity within the society at which people continuously presented them with stones for the building. The plan of the building was voluntarily created by Narek Sargsyan Studio, and the design of the internal space and the overall look of the building was brought to life by Soghomonyan Architects Studio.

Currently, Bari Tnak has one main building and the second one is under construction. The first one includes an event platform, areas for the rehabilitation therapies and rooms for the mothers who stay in the center. With the support of the Tankian family, the second building will be ready this year. It will have 18 bedrooms to host about 36 young people with disabilities. The second building will also include a social café-bakery and several workshop studios which the organizers hope to turn into a business project in order to sustain the Bari Tnak with their resources.

“One of our greatest goals is to be able to sustain our center by our own means and we want to help our beneficiaries to do the same with their lives,” says the founder of the NGO, Marina Adulyan.

As the bakery and workshops aren’t ready yet, the financial sustainability of Bari Tnak is mainly ensured via crowdfundings, creative events and campaigns, private and charitable organizations, individual entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. However, the business plan is developed in a way that in several years the center will be able to cover all its costs. Another financial resource is the event zone of the center open for everyone and all the income the center obtains from the platform is directly allocated to the further development of the project.

social support - children

On the governmental level, the NGO and Bari Tnak center cooperate with the Ministry of Social Affairs. Bari Tnak received a donation from the cabinet of the President Armen Sargsyan, and recently, the First Lady Nune Sargsyan visited the center. However, the company doesn’t receive constant official support from the government, and the primary sources of financial stability remain the same.

It’s important to note that the initiative doesn’t provide direct finance to the families that have children with special needs. They aim to help them make their own efforts to establish themselves, get a specialization and learn to sustain their families by their own means. In this way, the mothers and young people with disabilities receive an opportunity to work, learn new skills and realize their potential. The team may provide them with food, pay their communal fees if there is an extreme need, but they strive to teach them to get out of their situation by themselves and be autonomous. Another important point is that the initiative doesn’t illustrate these people from the vulnerability perspective but presents them in a positive light.

For the future, the founders and organizers of the center have a quite impressive goal; to eliminate the need for orphanages in Armenia, to provide the children with disabilities above the orphanage age with job opportunities and to attach them with someone who would care for them – a family or at least a mentor. Bari Tnak will become an integrative daytime center where they can provide care for children with disabilities who happily live in their own families.

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