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   WZM Award for Compassion 


Ruth Handy  presenting WZM  Award


WZM Award #7 Presented on June 4, 2007 to Sossi Latchinian of Pasadena High School.









Essay by
Sossi Latchinian

Beyond My Armenian World

An individual will change due to an external force.
However, is that external force influential enough for
that change to be embedded in the person’s being?

I attended an Armenian school for 13 years where
Armenians were the only emphasis - how we came about
and the struggles we went through. Not one of the
topics discussed had consisted of people outside of
Armenia . Being Armenian was all I knew, but the
external influence that affected me enough to change
my direction was when I joined In His Shoes, a
non-profit organization that supports those who suffer
all over the world.

Change is essential in life and learning. During my
days at the Armenian school, no other culture existed
other than my people; no other culture went through
what my people went through. I was exceedingly proud
of my background. My main goal every year was to learn
something new about being Armenian. I was not aware of
the rest of the world beyond my own. If the subject
did not have anything to do with the Armenians,
neither my classmates nor I would pay attention. Just
like any other Armenian school, my school’s main goal
was to emphasize on the Armenian Genocide and it was
our job to spread the teachings of our culture to
others. This overwhelming pride was not something I
was born with, it was instilled in me throughout the
years. Then, my perspective changed when I was
influenced by Father Vazken Movsesian, director of In
His Shoes, whose ambition and mission was to have
young teenagers walk in the shoes of others,
regardless of their ethnicity and religion.

I have been a member of In His Shoes for four years. I
will never forget the video clip he shared with us
about the children that continue to live and survive
in Africa without proper shelter or even a decent
meal. After seeing this clip, I decided that there
must be something more I can do to help these young
ones. During the Armenian Genocide, no one came to
help us. I did not want this mistake to happen again.
I wanted to change and instill that change in others.
Each year, I fasted for world hunger in an attempt to
understand the pain and suffering of the hungry and
walk in the shoes of those who are oppressed. I
participated in the 30 Hour Famine sponsored by World
Vision - when I could only begin to feel the pain and
hunger that defined their lives.

Another important event that I participated in with In
His Shoes was raising awareness on the Darfur
Genocide. Many people, including myself, were not even
aware of the inhumane conditions: poisoned water
supplies; streets guarded by sex-hungry guerrilla
soldiers; parents killed in front of their children,
etc. I participated in Camp Darfur - a traveling
refugee camp in different communities, which gave me
the opportunity to make a difference in my own way by
raising awareness through community rallies and
presentations. Through this brief experience I
realized that the Genocide in Darfur will continue
until people take action toward the right direction -
raising awareness being the first step.

I picture life as a growing tree. The tree must change
in order to grow. It must grow in order to bear fruits
and take its place in the world. Trees that do not
change will die; therefore, people that do not change
will die. Father Vaazken has broadened my way of
thinking. If it were not for him, I would not have
changed my perspective about the world; I would not be
empowered to be a community advocate. Father Vazken
was the external force that embedded change in my being.


Ruth Ratna Handy, LCSW
(818) 834-5925


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