Posts Tagged ‘ACYOA’

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[ACYOA Dispatches]: The 2010 ACYOA Armenia Service Program Day 7 – Embracing Armenia.

July 14, 2010

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Credit: Lisa Zaroogian

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[ACYOA Dispatches]: The 2010 ACYOA Armenia Service Program Day 6 – Zvartntoz Tachar.

July 13, 2010

ASP-ers posing in between columns at Zvartntoz Tachar

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Credit: Lisa Zaroogian

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[ACYOA Dispatches]: The 2010 ACYOA Armenia Service Program Day 6 – FAR’s Soup Kitchen.

July 13, 2010

By Katrina Shakarian
 
ASP-ers divided their time in Gyumri between assisting with renovations at the Ounjian school and FAR’s soup kitchen. Everyday four members joined the staff at the soup kitchen, where they helped prepare a meal for 100-140 senior citizens.  
 
The kitchen employs four people who prepare meals and clean the facility. The soup kitchen is run by FAR; it was established by benefactors Margarite and Nishan Atinizian of New Jersey.    
 
The average beneficiary is over 65, and lives alone in Gyumri. Many of their children have gone abroad. Some are orphans who were sent to Gyumri as teenagers to work in Soviet textile factories. Some lost their spouses during the war in Karabakh. Others are refugees from Azerbaijan or victims of the 1988 earthquake.  
 
Their only income is their monthly pension, which ranges from 15,000 to 37,000 drams per month. In the summer months, 20,000 drams covers roughly 15 days of gas and electricity. It is not enough for food, running water, or medical care.

FAR’s Soup Kitchen in Gyumri

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

 
I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to Gor Simonyan, who supervises operations at the soup kitchen. I asked him to list things that they need to improve their services. He said the facility needs a refrigerator and freezer, an oven, tables and chairs, cutlery, and silverware. Gor hopes that one day Gyumri will have its own senior center to provide a range of services for the elderly.
 
The work done at FAR’s soup kitchen is truly God-sent. At lunchtime, ASP-ers passed out bowls of borsht and gretchka. We placed cups of colorful limonat on each table.  

However, the most important part of our time at the soup kitchen was mingling with the people, eliciting a smile, and lending a hand. We listened to their stories. The people who visit this kitchen built this country as teachers, doctors, and engineers. They are its backbone, its heart and soul.

Father Tateos and FAR Staff in the Soup Kitchen

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

 

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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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[ACYOA Dispatches]: The 2010 ACYOA Armenia Service Program Day 5 – Gyumri Youth Center.

July 12, 2010

By Eric Ashbahian

Do as the locals do. That has been my credo as I have toured and worked in Armenia over the past week and a half. When the group visited a local youth center, one of the girls there said that some youth were gathering in the main square to read at 7:30 in the evening. At the time I did not know exactly why they were doing this, but I learned that the goal of the event was twofold: to try to show Gyumri locals that reading is not geeky and to bring the local youth together.

We read silently for about 15 minutes and then had discussions in groups of about 10 as to why we felt reading was important, as well as what our favorite book was and why. The participants asked me a lot of questions about what I was doing in Armenia, as well as what I thought of their country. They offered to take me on a tour of their city.

The people of Gyumri are extremely proud of who they are and the culture they have been able to preserve. I received an amazing introduction to Gyumri from the viewpoint of the youth. I will never forget my time with them; it is an experience I will carry with me always.

In and around Gyumri; the old district of Slabotka

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

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[ACYOA Dispatches]: The 2010 ACYOA Armenia Service Program Day 4 – Gyumri & FAR’s Octet Music School.

July 10, 2010

In and around Gyumri; the old district of Slabotka

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

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[ACYOA Dispatches]: The 2010 ACYOA Armenia Service Program Day 4 – Gyumri & FAR’s Octet Music School.

July 9, 2010

By Katrina Shakarian

Gyumri is known throughout Armenia as a city of artists. Its old city, for example, boasts a unique style of architecture that you’ll see nowhere else in Armenia. While the rest of the country, particularly Yerevan, is an amalgam of Soviet apartment blocks and modern architecture, Gyumri’s old city is reminiscent of Armenian homes in Gharz and Erzurum, now cities in eastern Turkey.

While much of Armenia is currently built with pink toof rocks, architects in 19th-century Gyumri built their homes with black toof. Levon from FAR’s Yerevan office took me on a tour of the old city, known by the locals as Slabotka. The buildings there are in different states of ruin because of the 1988 earthquake.Yet, even in that state of dilapidation, it’s easy to envision how beautiful this city once was. The buildings boast arches and intricately carved wooden doorways. As I walked along the narrow streets paved in cobblestone, I imagined women sipping coffee on their wooden balconies, and men exchanging the day’s news on their wide stone stoops.

In and around Gyumri; the old district of Slabotka

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

Surprisingly, it was the Slabotka, and not the soviet built buildings, that withstood the earthquake. The rest of the city, approximately 88 percent of it, was completely demolished; 22 years later, evidence of this disaster is everywhere. For example, a large portion of the population still lives in temporary shelters that were set up in the wake of the earthquake. They’re an ad hoc collection of metal bins that resemble shanties. They are not all alike. The differences between them serve as a microcosm for the larger patterns of stratification that have gripped this country.

In and around Gyumri; the old district of Slabotka

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

You can determine a family’s means by the embellishments on their domiks. A family that is a little better off, has fortified its shelter with stones. Levon, of FAR’s Yerevan office, invited us into his parent’s shelter for coffee. In the past 22 years, his father has added rooms, they’ve grown a flower garden, and tried to recreate a semblance of their prior home. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, families live under tin roofs that barely cover the extent of their homes.

ASP had the privilege of visiting the Octet music school, located in one of these temporary metal containers. On Wednesday afternoon, its teachers and students gathered at the site and treated us to a concert. We were all humbled and amazed at what these children have accomplished with such meager resources. They walked us down a narrow hallway, into a carpeted music hall. We barely fit.

ACYOA Students in front of the temporary shelter
which houses FAR’s Octet Music School

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

The first thing I noticed, was a grand piano situated on a tiny wooden stage. Imagine—such a grandiose instrument sitting in a metal container in a sprawling shanty town. It sounds out of place, but these students make it work. We were treated to a steady stream of harps, violins, duduks, piano players, and vocalists. One of our participants, Arman Ayrapetyan, was even invited on stage for a guitar duet.

Arman and student from FAR’s Octet Music School performing together

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

Graduates of this academy typically continue their studies at the music conservatory in Gyumri or Yerevan. One vocalist, Nune, has just graduated. She will be moving to Yerevan and majoring in English this fall. The Octet school has no luxuries and amenities. Year after year, equipped with the bare minimum, it churns our very talented musicians. Amidst all the dust and debris, these students are making beautiful music, and giving Gyumretzis hope.

Orchestra from FAR’s Octet Music School

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian