Tamar Gasparian raises concerns over Armenian-American-funded women's shelter
Published: Saturday August 25, 2012
Open letter to Mrs. Seta Ghazarian
Founder of Paros "Lighthouse" Armenian Charitable Foundation USA
Dear Mrs. Seta Ghazarian,
My name is Tamar Gasparian, I live in New York and for several years I have worked and volunteered for various non-profit organizations in both New York and Yerevan. I also recently graduated from City University of New York with an MA in Urban Affairs focusing on non-profit fundraising and management. As a non-profit professional and as an Armenian, I am writing to raise my concern regarding your organization and its director - Naira Muradyan.
The first time I had heard about your organization was in an Armenian documentary made by Tehmine Yenoqyan, where Christine Gevorgyan briefly mentions about being evicted from the Lighthouse shelter. I could not believe that a non-profit organization founded with donations by Armenian-Americans to help abused mothers and pregnant women can treat its beneficiaries in such a harsh way, especially Christine, whose daughter Angeli was born with a cleft palate. I immediately contacted the director of the film about how to get in touch with Christine, so I can understand better why the Lighthouse shelter wouldn't let her and her baby stay. She told me a few things but asked me not to tell anyone because Naira Muradyan threatened her by saying, "Be careful what you say, you have a sick child and a husband in jail."
After a few months, when my boyfriend Rafi Hovsepian and I were traveling in Armenia, we arranged to meet with Christine and talk to her in person. When we asked Christine why she couldn't stay at the Lighthouse shelter, she told me the story of how Naira Muradyan had mistreated her. For example, Ms. Muradyan had told Christine that Angeli is a sick baby (just because she had a cleft) and they will not keep her sick baby at the shelter. She was forced to clean the bathroom at the shelter (she was eight months pregnant at the time) and wash the dishes after the staff ate.
Christine also told us that the staff would always go through the donated clothing first; taking the nice things for themselves and leaving the remaining unwanted items for the beneficiaries. I was speechless.
I spoke with a few other people just to be sure that Christine was not exaggerating, and her stories were confirmed. However, Ms. Muradyan has threatened some of the people I spoke with, and they now refuse to speak publicly.
So had Christine, but I told her that if she doesn't stand up for herself and all the other women who have been mistreated in that shelter, no one else would. So she gathered her courage and wrote me a letter explaining all the details of what went on at that shelter, and how Naira is mistreating the beneficiaries.
Christine is a brave woman, and that is the reason why we decided to support her in the first place. I sent the letter she wrote to www.hetq.am and asked the organization to investigate. The result is this article in English:
In Armenian: http://hetq.am/arm/articles/17446/du-vabshe-ov-es-du-gites-es-ov-em-harcnum-e-laythaus-himnadrami-tnoreny.html
Naira Muradyan is not even hesitating to call Christine "a person useless for society" to the reporter of Hetq. I wonder based on what qualifications did you hire Naira Muradyan to become the director of your organization?
I am looking forward to hearing your opinion and explanation. Perhaps you had no idea about Naira's behavior, and even if that's the case it doesn't comfort me. As a founder of the organization it is your responsibility to hire and develop staff that will never mistreat or humiliate any beneficiary, especially abused and neglected women.
In addition, I would like to learn more about your organization's operations and your employee development and evaluation process.
I hope that your foundation will dismiss Naira Muradyan and apologize to all of the beneficiaries who have suffered because of her actions and misbehavior.
I will make sure these incidents get us much public attention as possible. Charity is not a private business, and your organization is dealing with a vulnerable population. As a member of society, I have a right and obligation to watch and make sure that organizations like yours are doing what they say they are doing and assure that all the donations are going to the people and the causes for which they were donated.
I am not denying that your shelter has probably helped many single mothers and abused women, but even one neglected beneficiary is one too many. I will not tolerate this, and I know there are MANY people out there that will sign under this letter as they join me with their comments under the article.
P.S. Many of our friends, Rafi and I have allocated some money to help Christine and Angeli. We went shopping with her while in Armenia and asked her to pick anything she needs for the baby and herself. All she picked was a bar of soap, diapers, milk and toothpaste. That's how shy and modest she is.
Then Rafi and I used our own judgment to purchase food and supplies for the baby. Christine kept telling us it is enough; she doesn't need more because there are other people who have already helped her.
I am telling this to show you Christine's character. She is a very humble and grateful human being. She is also a loving and brave mother, because despite the advice to have an abortion or give the baby to an orphanage after her birth, she never gave up on her child.