By Sharael Kolberg, Special to the Independent
Brother-sister scouts from Laguna Beach teamed up to start a sewing program for a youth shelter as part of their Eagle Scout and Girl Scout Silver Award service projects this past summer.
Joseph and Ani Hovanesian received thunderous applause from 300 supporters when they explained their project at the Orran youth shelter gala in Glendale on Sunday, Oct. 1.
Orran, which means “haven” in Armenian, provides meals, school work assistance, health care, and vocational skill training to 300 poor children in Armenia.
Joseph’s father, John Hovanesian, an eye surgeon, had become familiar with Orran on his volunteer surgical trips to Armenia, and he connected his son with the founding director. A family trip planned for this past summer instigated the service project undertaken by Joseph, an Eagle Scout candidate and a member of Laguna Beach Troop 35. He is also a freshman at Laguna Beach High School.
Joseph consulted with scout leaders before starting to fundraise to buy sewing machines and supplies for Orran.
With sewing tutorials from Anna Tejchman, a home economics teacher at Thurston Middle School, Joseph planned to bring the supplies to Armenia during his trip and pass on his knowledge to the local children, starting a regular vocational education program.
Joseph fundraised at his church, St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in Costa Mesa, at school and through a KX 93.5 radio program hosted by family friend Caroline Rustigian, who highlights local nonprofits on her show.
In total, the youth raised over $2,500, twice his goal, allowing him to buy four machines instead of two. He collected over 350 pounds of fabric partly due to donations from Pacific Coast Drapery, owned by his fellow Scout’s dad, Sam Eidt.
“It was amazing to see how supportive the community was when they heard a kid like me wanted to help other kids,” Joseph said.
Ani, 11, a seventh grader at Thurston, took on her own version of the project. She collected fabric and supplies to teach the younger Orran kids how to hand stitch puppets and make other crafts.
Both Joseph and Ani conducted mock sewing lessons for their fellow Scouts before they left home to learn what challenges they would face in teaching kids who spoke another language in Armenia.
Seven large duffels full of fabric and supplies accompanied Joseph and Ani and their parents, John and Tanya, to Armenia this summer.
The sewing classes came off “more or less according to my plan,” said Joseph.
“Actually,” said Joseph’s sister, Ani, “Joe learned that, even with a language barrier, girls pay so much better attention than the boys back home in his Scout troop learning the same lesson. No surprise!”
Orran director Armineh Hovannisian, who is not related, asked the two to present their project at the nonprofit’s gala in Glendale, home to a large Armenian community. “It was so inspiring to everyone to see these kids make a difference by picking a needed project, making all the arrangements, and seeing it through to completion. We are really excited to offer this program to our participating kids on an ongoing basis,” the director said.
Both Joseph and Ani are still working to fulfill requirements to earn scouting’s top awards. Now, that goal seems less compelling.
“I’m really glad our project went so well, and I’m thinking about what we can do on our next trip to Armenia,” said Joseph.