In the land of stones: steps to regaining independence

It does not take much to help people who are struggling to get back on their feet. And for those concerned it means everything. How NAK-karitativ helps families in Armenia help themselves.

According to an ancient Armenian legend, when God was creating the world and dividing the lands the Armenians missed out choosing because they were celebrating. So all that was left was the land of stones, and Armenia is very rugged and mountainous.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan, Armenia has been challenged. Despite a good education many people are unable to find work. Parents sell their valuables to provide an education for their children. Once they are done with their studies, most students return home to their villages, unable to find a job.

Securing people’s livelihood in Tavush

To generate income for their families, many men volunteer for military service in the border region. They are willing to risk being injured or not seeing their home and families at all any more. Others are drafted by the military. A third larger group of men go to Russia to seek work there as day-labourers. The women and children stay behind.

In 2015 the New Apostolic charity NAK-karitativ started a project in Noyemberyan and Koghb to provide much needed aid for thirty families. The town administration and a local organisation APAVEN assisted in identifying some of the most vulnerable households. Together with the families, NAK-karitativ developed solutions for sustainable small-scale farming projects in 2016 so that the families would no longer be dependent on aid packages. This income-generating project included the establishment of beauty salons, livestock farming, and baking projects.

Successful projects

Nune is 31 years old and has a five-year old son. When NAK-karitativ first met her, her husband was in Russia. Nune was looking after her sick mother and was worried because she did not know when her husband would be returning home. Equally uncertain was whether he would send money home and if, how much …

It was Nune’s goal to open a nail salon to earn money while caring for her child and her sick mother. In a three-month course she learned all about nail care and design. NAK-karitativ funded the initial tools and supplies for her small start-up. She set up a small studio in a corner of her mother’s apartment. Meanwhile, Nune earns about 50 euros a month. This is enough money to cover the rent for a small apartment.

Nune’s husband, Igor, has in the meantime returned home. The young couple is currently in the process of setting up a small livestock farm on the property where Igor’s parents live. They receive help in buying chickens.

Three other women received training in hairdressing. Naira, who shares the same fate as Nune, was given a permanent job at her trainer’s salon on completing her course. Two other women received the basic equipment to set up a salon as well as the first two months’ rent. They started off successfully but still need some time to generate enough income.

Seven other families received chickens and building material to build coops. Sargis received fifty chickens, which he treats like a treasure. He has locked his chicken coop with a combination lock. Sargis already has customers for the eggs. He receives 11 cents per egg. He also breeds chickens. In the winter months his income amounts to about 35 to 40 euros a month. In the summer his income doubles thanks to the increased production of eggs. After deducting expenses for feed his family is left with a sizeable amount of money.

Smbat has been keeping goats for many years. He and his wife have three children. A smile rarely crosses Smbat’s serious face. But over the last six months his face muscles have relaxed a little. His small herd of goats—fifteen that he received through the project and the three he already had—has in the meantime grown by 15 baby goats. He generates income by producing cheese and selling livestock. He has many customers for his cheese and therefore a secure income.

Two other men, shepherds, have almost doubled their herds, just like Smbat. They sell the wool and some of the lambs for extra income. One lamb can be sold for 50 euros. “When I heard that I would get fifteen sheep I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep the whole night,” Yura says. “That a complete stranger comes and gives you a gift is something that only happens once in your lifetime.”

Success and prospects

Of the eighteen families that received help, sixteen were able to improve their chances at increasing their income. Two families require additional intensive support. On average, a family’s income improved by 30 to 50 euros a month in the first six months. To date, the families had 80 to a maximum of 200 euros of disposable income per month. Based on the positive experience with these measures NAK-karitativ will continue the project they have started in the villages and extend it to other regions.

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