At a press conference today, the plight of those being discharged from the Zatik Orphanage due to their age was discussed by Hetq Editor Edik Baghdasaryan and Heritage Party MP Anahit Bakhshyan.
Arsen Mkrtchyan was forced to leave the Zatik Orphanage when he turned 18. Now 20, he’s a fourth year student at the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute and works nights in a bakery to pay his rent.
He was told to find his own way in this world – no housing, job, nothing.
“Sure it’s tough, studying and working at the same time, but I have no choice,” Arsen said.
Recently, 33 of the 68 orphans at Zatik have been discharged, according to MP Bakhshyan.
She argued that the children were being “tossed out” with nowhere to go despite legal guarantees that the state must provide for their social needs, including housing.
Baghdasaryan noted that the government had initiated a housing program for parentless children leaving state orphanages as far back as 2001 and that construction began in 2003.
“It was a fabulous program had it been fully realized. Some 156 apartments were built in just a few years. Then, there were revelations of large-scale embezzlement and a criminal investigation was launched,” Baghdasaryan said.
No one was ever charged and the monies were never returned, he added.
“Hey, this is normal for Armenia where officials try to make money from everything, even at the expense of orphans,” he said.
MP Bakhshyan commented that while social programs are signed into law and get budgets, their effectiveness is never really felt by those in need.
There’s no state policy, no institutional approach to this problem,” she said.
As to what steps the orphanage “graduates” might explore, MP Bakhshyan advised them to take up the matter with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which has a number of projects on paper, and see if any relate to facilitating work or education for those leaving the orphanage.
Baghdasaryan proposed that pressure be brought to bear on various business leaders and oligarchs to offer these young people jobs.
“These kids need the support of society but there’s no one out there willing to provide them the assistance they need,” he added.