RIVER VALE, NEW JERSEY – The Fuller Center for Housing Armenia (FCHA) to continue home building mission in Armenia. Since 2010, the FCHA’s mission in Armenia has been led by Leo and Sona Manuelian of New Jersey, together they have dedicated every summer to assisting the homeless in Armenia; they have led five teams and more than 75 volunteers from the United States. Their story of selfless devotion to their ancestral homeland is inspired by their deep Christian faith.

Leo-Sona-GarniLeo’s parents were both victims of the Armenian Genocide. His parents often told him the stories of their suffering. Leo explains, “I do this work because I never want to see Armenians forced from their lands. Homelessness is a problem we can solve, and I am committed to being a part of the solution by building homes for families who need our help. I do this work with a tremendous amount of pride. I will work with FCHA until the good Lord calls me home.” 

Leo’s first trip to Armenia was 11 years ago as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Armenia. He was so impressed with the work being done to give rural families decent and safe homes that he decided to become a team leader himself. In 2008, Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat, created a new organization, called the Fuller Center for Housing. Leo decided he would join the new Fuller Center affiliate in Armenia.

Sona, has also embraced her husband’s deep-seeded passion. Sona has been a team leader by Leo’s side for the past five years. She didn’t join his earlier trips because of a great fear of flying. However, when Leo would return from Armenia with his emotional stories about the families and the land, she was unable to resist the strong force tugging her toward the homeland.

Sona shares, “Helping my sisters and brothers in Armenia fills my heart with joy. There is no other country like Armenia. My roots are here. Working with the Fuller Center gives me such elation that my heart becomes larger than my body! We do God-pleasing work. Our team members and the homeowners all join together, hand in hand, to build a new home. Where they had nothing before, the families now have a home and hope for the future.”

To become an FCHA beneficiary, prospective homeowners must complete an application. The application first undergoes a paper audit and then a field audit to determine eligibility. To be eligible, a family must own a half-built home or a home in need of renovation; have an income which can sustain the family, but is not enough to allow them to complete construction of the house on their own or to pay off a bank loan; and, as a result of these factors, live in substandard housing (typically, a portion of the uncompleted house, a “domik”, or a borrowed home).

In the more than ten years that this work has been advanced in Armenia, approximately 650 families have been provided with an affordable and decent home. The positive impact of the FCHA program extends beyond the tangible economic and social benefits. It has proven to be 100% effective in stemming emigration. NOT ONE FAMILY HELPED BY FCHA HAS EMIGRATED. From the perspective of the volunteers, this experience allows them to learn about the homeland. It’s a win-win-win situation!

The Fuller Center for Housing Armenia Build trip is currently accepting applicants of all ages to volunteer for July 1 –July 13, 2015, to help build homes in Armenia for families who are in dire need of housing. Upon arriving at the airport in Yerevan, volunteers will be transported to a hotel in the city center. The following morning, there will be an introduction to the mission of FCHA, along with safety instructions and other logistical information needed to participate in the program. Volunteers will then be introduced to the family in need of a home and work will begin immediately thereafter.

The cost of the trip includes transfers, food, lodging at the Congress hotel for 12 nights, and tours. Additional expenses are airfare, passport, visa (where applicable), alcohol, and souvenirs.

The volunteers will also have an opportunity for sightseeing in Yerevan and touring breathtaking religious and cultural sites.

For more information, contact Leo Manuelian at [email protected], Sona Manuelian at [email protected] or call 201-746-0409. To learn about additional trip dates with FCHA, please visit www.fullercenterarmenia.org or email [email protected].

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