ORANGE COUNTY—Laguna Beach High School sophomore and parishioner at St. Mary Armenian Church in Costa Mesa, Joseph Hovanesian was honored with the Eagle Scout Project of the Year award. The event took place on Wednesday night at the Eagle Scout recognition dinner of the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts. His project involved creating a sewing program for the nonprofit youth shelter, Orran, in Armenia and was chosen among 724 other competing projects.
Hovanesian, whose video describing his project was played for the audience of 500 at the recognition dinner also takes part in drama and Destination Imagination at Laguna Beach High School and has been part of St. Mary Sunday School since first grade, the same time he joined scouting.
He dreamed up the project in the spring of 2017, when his family was planning a two-week summer vacation to Armenia. “I’ve always enjoyed creating things, and I had learned to sew the year before. I wanted my Eagle project to benefit young people in Armenia,” he said.
He learned about Orran, a shelter in Armenia’s capital city that takes children who were found begging on the street and gives them educational and enriching after-school activities.
After talking to Orran’s director, Armine Hovannisian, he learned sewing was notably missing from their offerings, so Joseph set out to raise $1,500 in the US to buy Orran two sewing machines and supply them with enough fabric and supplies for a year’s worth of teaching.
To raise the money, Joseph created a website, made an appearance on Laguna Beach’s KX radio’s Caroline’s Cause Corner with Caroline Rustigian, and made presentations at St. Mary Church. An outpouring of support ensued.
He raised over $5,000—more than twice his goal–and received five large duffel bags of donated fabric, much of it from a seamstress in the church congregation and from Pacific Coast Drapery Manufacturing, owned by Sam Eidt, the dad of a fellow Scout. With the added funds, Joseph’s project was able to buy four sewing machines and support the salary of a teacher in Armenia for the sewing program’s first year.
With his family and his donated supplies, Joseph traveled to Armenia and taught the first lessons to about 20 local children, over two days teaching them the basics of how to use a sewing machine and to make pillows of different shapes. “Before the trip, we did a dry run sewing lesson with my guy friends in Laguna to get me ready, but I actually found it easier to teach a bunch of girls whose language I didn’t speak in Armenia because they paid much closer attention,” said Joseph.
At LBHS, Joseph takes part in drama and Destination Imagination and has been a Scout since he joined Tiger Cubs in first grade. Only one in 25 Boy Scouts earns the Eagle rank. The requirements include leadership experience, 21 merit badges ranging in topic from Environmental Science to Lifesaving, and a service project where the Scout plans, develops, and gives leadership in a significant effort that benefits others.
Orran is a shelter embracing socially vulnerable children and the elderly with locations in Yerevan and Vanadzor. To learn more about Orran, visit their website.