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[ACYOA Dispatches]: The 2010 ACYOA Armenia Service Program Day 5 – FAR’s Ounjian School and Soup Kitchen.

July 12, 2010

By James Balakian

Like every day in Gyumri, today was incredibly busy. Apart from our work at both the Ounjian School and the soup kitchen, we partook in the blessing of the Ounjian School. We also had the opportunity to meet an elderly woman, who walks to the soup kitchen every day. Respectively, these events brought me both joy and sadness.

First, Father Tateos blessed the Ounjian School. The presence of Doctor Ounjian, along with the governor of Shirak province, further added to the significance of the event.  As this school comes closer to opening, it allows some light to shine where there has been much darkness. Gyumri is a city that still struggles from the earthquake of 1988. There are still many ruined buildings, as recovery has been slow here. Yet, this event gives me hope for the city, since I can see that progress is happening. With advancements like this new modern school, the younger generation here will be given a life that was unattainable by their parents.

After working at the soup kitchen, we drove an elderly woman named Nuneh back to her apartment, located in central Gyumri. In her home, I witnessed but a sliver of the bitter poverty that exists here. This woman lives in a one-room apartment. Here, she has no plumbing, no electricity, and no heat. She has no family, and at 73, takes care of herself. Her main source of sustenance is provided by the soup kitchen, to which she walks daily.

Being with Nuneh in her home has only strengthened my conviction that charitable work is necessary if more improvements are to be made here. To conclude, this trip has been beyond words, and I believe it will take much more exploration and thinking to understand this place.

Nuneh in her home in Gyumri

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

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