SARF, Diaspora Coalition Team Up with International Organizations to Assist Armenia’s Syrian Refugees
LOS ANGELES—On March 17, Oxfam in Armenia, along with the Armenian Redwood Project (ARP) and the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund (SARF), a coalition of various Armenian Diaspora entities, announced its commitment to expand on the valuable efforts in 2014 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Armenia in the frame of its emergency housing project on the provision of rental subsidies to vulnerable families displaced from Syria and seeking protection in Armenia.
The 12-month assistance project, based on a 3-party Memorandum of Understanding between Oxfam in Armenia, ARP, and UNHCR, was launched in February 2015. Rental subsidies, which will be provided to the families through bank transfer, aim at creating some form of an interim “safety net” program with possible longer term housing solutions being explored in the meantime.
“We feel compelled to assist the needs of our Syrian brothers and sisters,” said SARF chairman John Titizian. “During these times of needs, the SARF board felt that the diaspora’s partnering with Oxfam and international organizations was the right model. “After all, It’s about supporting the resilient human spirit of our Syrian-Armenian compatriots,” he added.
In commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the Syria crisis, the coalition of diaspora organizations wanted to pay tribute to the Syrian families in Armenia who, despite the hardships they went through, are trying to start a new life in Armenia, the land of their ancestors.
Together, the partnership between UNHCR, Oxfam, and the Armenian Diaspora has augmented assistance capacity in Armenia and will now be able to service more than 800 refugee households in 2015. New Syrian refugees continued to seek shelter in Armenia almost on a weekly basis in 2015.
“This project is a unique example of cooperation between the Armenian Diaspora, Oxfam, UNHCR, and Mission Armenia NGO,” said Margarita Hakobyan, Oxfam country director in Armenia. “I am assured that joint projects like this will create basis for strategic and longer term partnerships, making it possible for displaced Syrian families to integrate in Armenian society.”
“Investments in rent subsidies for children and families is a ‘sustainable’ approach in the long run, even though it will require continued charitable giving by the diaspora and its international partners until these families make adjustments in their lives,” said social entrepreneur Raffy Ardhaldjian, and chief action officer for the ARP. “It is a privilege for us to be following the lead of UNHCR and to be joining hands with Oxfam in Armenia and SARF. I’m hoping this partnership grows beyond this emergency intervention.”
The program will be implemented by Mission Armenia social NGO, which has been operating emergency housing projects, including rental subsidies scheme for Syrian families, through the 2014 UNHCR-funded projects. The program will benefit newly arriving refugees through 2015, as well as a number of vulnerable families who arrived earlier, but are still in dire need of emergency assistance.
“This is an excellent example of how different actors like diaspora organizations, serving as private donors, international and local NGOs, and international organizations, can work together to improve the humanitarian response, achieve synergies, make maximum use of limited resources and, most importantly, mitigate the suffering of the displaced populations,” said Christoph Bierwirth, UNHCR representative in Armenia.
The Syrian Armenian Relief Fund’s mission is to provide immediate assistance to the Syrian Armenians through the generous donations of the community in the Western United States, and the network of churches and charity organizations that operate in the region. The assistance will be used for food, medicine, temporary shelter, emergency medical, and other critical humanitarian expenses by committees established by the Syrian-Armenian communities in accordance with local needs.
Founded in 2014, the Armenian Redwood Project is a non-profit social enterprise alliance that intends to employ business strategies aimed at significantly improving the lives and wellbeing of the thousands of Syrian Armenians impacted by the ravaging war in Syria. To learn more, visit www.armenianredwoodproject.org.
Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working in approximately 94 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and what it considers as injustice around the world. Oxfam is committed to providing humanitarian aid to those in need during times of conflict. Oxfam is providing aid and long term support to hundreds of thousands of people affected by the crisis. Syria remains an Oxfam priority. Oxfam have reached over a million people already, whether inside Syria or in neighboring countries affected by the crisis.
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