Ninth Graders Give the Gift of Sight for Christmas

Homeroom Class Sponsors Village of Margahovit for Eye Screenings

NEWPORT BEACH–"The spirit of Christmas is in giving–not receiving," says Miriam Samoniantz–a teacher at Mesrobian Armenian School in Pico Rivera–California.

She infused the Christmas spirit in her ninth-grade students by encouraging them to participate in the Armenian EyeCare Project’s (AECP) Adopt-A-Village Program. "It really is a wonderful feeling to give unselfishly."

Samoniantz learned about the Adopt-A-Village Program from her parents–Choren and Flora Manukian–who are patients of AECP President Roger Ohanesian. The Manukians told their daughter about the AECP’s program to help provide eye care to the thousands of Armenian people in the regions who cannot afford care.

From March through November each year–the AECP’s state of the art Mobile Eye Hospital follows a scheduled route throughout the country–providing eye care at no cost to vulnerable patients. The AECP doctors–nurses–and staff screen adults and children for eye disease and provide a complete eye examination with treatment–including surgery–when required. The most frequently performed surgery on the MEH is for cataracts.

During the winter months–when weather prevents the MEH from traveling throughout the Marzes–it visits local nursing homes and orphanages. Since June of 2003–the start of the AECP’s seven-year initiative "Bringing Sight to Armenian Eyes," the Mobile Eye Hospital has visited seven regions of Armenia–screened close to 40,000 people and performed approximately 2,500 surgeries and laser procedures.

The Adopt-A-Village program invites donors to sponsor the screening and treatment of residents of a specific region or village in Armenia. The cost of adopting a village ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars–depending on the population. Donors can choose a village that has special meaning to them–or–like Miriam Samoniantz and her class–they can select a village in an area that will soon be visited by the MEH so that they can help people with an immediate need.

"When I heard about AECP’s Adopt-A-Village Program–that’s all I needed. I thought that this is something that my ninth grade homeroom can do," says Samoniantz. "The AECP is truly a wonderful organization. The doctors donate their time to help people. The idea that so many people could be helped by such a small amount was appealing."

Samoniantz asked the seven boys and seven girls in her homeroom class: "How would you like to give the gift of eyesight to a village? It would be truly wonderful and unselfish of you."

The 14-year-olds embraced the project–which began in October and ended in mid-December. They decided to adopt Margahovit because the AECP’s Mobile Eye Hospital will visit the village early in 2005.

Samoniantz–who has taught at Mesrobian Armenian School for 30 years–thought the project would be especially meaningful if the class started a Margahovit piggybank. Each day the students emptied their pocket change into the bank. Soon–the students went right to the piggybank first–emptied their pockets and purses–and then greeted their teacher. In 2 months–the students raised $535 to adopt Margahovit.

"They were ecstatic. They were very pleased with themselves," says Samoniantz. "The class realizes that they’re giving the gift of sight to their brothers and sisters in Armenia. It was done unselfishly and willingly. I’m really proud of these kids."

Samoniantz–who "definitely" plans to adopt another village with her students next year–says that her ninth grade class hopes that their efforts will motivate other schools and organizations to participate in the Adopt-A-Village program.

Other AECP donors who have adopted a village include: Arch and Nelly Azizian–San Leandro–California; Diane Der Bogozian–Virginia; Haig and Gaylynne Der-Houssikian–Gainesville–Florida; Mr. and Mrs. Jirair Hovnanian–Mt. Laurel–New Jersey; Dickie Hovsepian–San Francisco–California; Eileen Barsamian Jennings–St. Petersburg–Florida; Dr. and Mrs. Onik Keshishian–Los Angeles–California; Bizer Simonian–Worcester–Massachusetts; and Mr. Roger Strauch and Dr. Julie Kulhajian–Piedmont–California.

To discuss a special adoption program for you or your family and for a complete list of villages available for adoption–please contact the EyeCare Project on their toll free number–866-448-2327. To learn more about the AECP–visit www.eyecareproject.com–or call 949-675-5767. To make a donation–call the AECP toll-free number–1-866-GIV-AECP–donate online at www.eyecareproject.comor mail a check to 518 South Bayfront–Newport Beach–CA 92662.

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