George S. Yacoubian, Jr. began the adoption process in Armenia in 2005. Throughout the spring and summer, he went through home study and various levels of domestic governmental approval. While in Armenia during the summer of 2005, George saw Liliana for the first time. He submitted Liliana’s adoption dossier to the Armenian government in the fall of 2005, received preliminary approval in December 2005, and obtained final adoption approval in March 2006. Liliana Sara Yacoubian, the inspiration for SOAR’s work, arrived in the United States on April 23, 2006.
George S. Yacoubian, Jr. founded the Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief (SOAR) in the fall of 2005 as a charitable organization that provides humanitarian relief to orphaned children living in Armenia. Dr. Yacoubian has served as SOAR’s Executive Board Chairman since 2005 and provides oversight and guidance to all SOAR operations worldwide. In early 2006, an experienced and talented Board of Directors was assembled, a network of Partners in Armenia was recruited to assist with distributions, and the web site was launched. Between 2006 and 2008, SOAR established itself as the only charitable organization whose singular mission is to provide humanitarian assistance to orphaned Armenians around the world. In late 2007 and early 2008, SOAR launched its first two Chapters – in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. In 2009, a National Board of Trustees was created to annually review SOAR’s fiscal operations and distributions. In 2010, SOAR launched its Sponsorship Fund, which today, with approximately $150,000.00 in annual revenue, is the primary mechanism through which micro-level needs are addressed. Since 2005, SOAR’s work has impacted thousands of children across a multitude of constructs, with the penultimate goal to provide institutionalized children with the same educational, emotional, medical, and social support as their non-institutionalized counterparts.
In 2016, SOAR took the proactive step of attempting to reduce the institutionalized orphan population in Armenia. Toward that end, SOAR now supports several day centers, all of which provide services to children at risk for institutionalization. SOAR also established its Services to Children in their Own Home (SCOH) Fund. The SCOH Fund works with residential institutions to deinstitutionalize and reunify children with biological families and provides home-based services after reunification to reduce the economic, social, and professional barriers that leave children at risk for reinstitutionalization.
Represented by 138 Chapters, 2 College Groups, 5 Junior groups, and more than 600 volunteers worldwide, SOAR supports 34 institutions in four countries: 30 orphanages, special boarding schools, day centers, transitional centers, and summer camps in Armenia; one Armenian boarding school in Artsakh; one orphan summer camp in Javakh; and two Armenian orphanages in Lebanon. Chapters contribute to SOAR’s mission in a variety of ways, from traditional fundraising to Program development to professional expertise. The common bond among us is the unwavering belief that orphaned children and adults with disabilities represent the most vulnerable population of Armenian society.
SOAR prides itself on creativity, cross-cultural respect, fiscal responsibility, and transparency. During the past 16 years, SOAR’s reach has expanded considerably. In 2006, distributions totaled approximately $60,000.00. Since 2015, SOAR distributions have exceeded $1M annually. Our efforts not only address the major humanitarian constructs of education, emotional and psychological support, nutrition, health and hygiene, dental and vision care, and fundamental human rights, but the Programs offer curricula on a multitude of topics that stimulate intellectual curiosity, empowerment, and enrichment.
SOAR is blessed with a dedicated and selfless cadre of supporters who share our short-term aspirations and long-term vision. We are faced with an enormous responsibility. Our greatest trepidation is not inadequacy or a belief that we are ill-equipped to assist the orphaned children we have embraced as our own, but rather that we have influence and power beyond measure. Our daily routine involves a compulsive desire to assist the abandoned, the sick, the impoverished, the abused, and the forgotten. As SOAR’s light shines, we hope that we are unconsciously giving the orphaned Armenian population the will to do the same.