200 Syrian-Armenian children (ages 5-15) on Wednesday gathered at Aleppo NGO’s Community Center in Yerevan. The energy of the running, laughing, singing children was only heightened by the appearance of an equally energetic Santa Claus (Gaghant Baba).
As a result of ONEArmenia’s crowdfunding campaign, Santas Wanted!, each child received a package of gifts including: a water resistant jacket, a warm hoodie, a handknitted scarf, a pair of winter boots, a jar of honey and a gift which was both educational and fun, either an Ayl Kerpik board game or fun and educational books. Every gift was produced in Armenia by the following businesses, respectively: Houys factory, #Sport, Goghovit Knits (in affiliation with the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation), AVA shoes, Honey.am, AylKerp and Zangak Publishing House.
ONEArmenia partnered with Aleppo NGO to determine what the children would benefit most from this holiday season. As the NGO works closely with Syrian-Armenian families, especially those who have recently moved to Armenia and are in need of support, they were able to identify the needs of the children.
Due to the harsh winter in Armenia, the most pressing need was for warm winter clothing. The remaining items were included to supplement the children’s health and education. While the utilitarian purposes of the gifts were appreciated by the parents, the children’s excitement came largely from receiving presents that were new and unexpected.
“The SantasWanted campaign brought a wide smile to the faces of Syrian children in Armenia,” said Ani Balkhian, Founding President of the Aleppo-NGO. “The Aleppo-NGO has hosted New Year’s celebrations and gift distributions for Syrian Children in the past three years, but this was the largest in scale and most successful one to date and it’s all due to the talented team of One-Armenia in Yerevan.”
People from around the world donated $34,529 to Santas Wanted! in order to give Syrian-Armenian children practical and fun gifts. In addition to supporting the children, the donations also support the local businesses, several of which are Syrian-Armenian owned.
The two largest donors to the campaign are also based in Yerevan. EY Armenia donated 40 of the water resistant coats and the UMCOR Armenia donated $4,125 to Santas Wanted!
The campaign was extremely successful and exceeded the initial goal of $25,000 allowing ONEArmenia to provide an additional 92 children with gifts. As the vendors require time to make all of the products, these gifts will be distributed in January.