YEGHEGNADZOR, Armenia—Despite heavy rains, the official celebrations on the occasion of the much-anticipated opening of the American University of Armenia (AUA) Turpanjian Rural Development Program (TRDP) office in Vayots Dzor went ahead as planned.
The well-attended event, complete with a red ribbon-cutting ceremony, took place in Yeghegnadzor, Vayots Dzor on October 29. About 40 people were present at the event, including the very first TRDP beneficiaries of Vayots Dzor who had come from the region’s different villages and towns, community leaders, representatives from the regional government’s office, religious leaders, as well as TRDP Chair Dr. Haroutune Armenian, AUA Vice President Ashot Ghazaryan, and TRDP staff members.
During the event reception, food products produced by successful TRDP-supported businesses from other regions of Armenia were made available to the guests: high-quality honey produced by Mr. Seyran Gevorgyan from the village of Kamo, Shirak; lavash produced by Mr. Harutyun Khachatryan from the village of Anushavan, Shirak; and “floss” cheese produced by Mr. Gurgen Abovyan in the border village of Koti, Tavush. The high quality and taste of the food impressed the guests, and the success of the older TRDP-supported businesses further encouraged the 13 new beneficiaries from Vayots Dzor, who plan to establish their own ventures in their communities soon.
Since the creation of AUA-TRDP in 2006 through a generous donation by Gerald Turpanjian, the program has expanded to include Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the regions of Shirak and Tavush in Armenia. A representation was also set up in Javakhk, a largely Armenian-populated region of Georgia. The program is aimed at promoting sustainable development in the rural communities of the Republic of Armenia, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Javakhk by offering continuous training and advisory services for business plans, developing skills necessary for entrepreneurial activity, as well as providing financial assistance.
Since its inception, TRDP has conducted trainings in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills for residents of more than 900 communities, contributing to the launch of over 250 businesses and the creation of over 400 jobs in rural communities. TRDP also encourages beneficiaries to give back to their communities, once they become successful entrepreneurs.
In his speech, Dr. Armenian highlighted the key to the program’s success. “One of the key points of program’s success is Gerald Turpanjian’s readiness to finance the program to whom we are very grateful. The second determinant of success is that, at TRDP, there is no director: we are all partners and work in direct collaboration with each other to achieve the economic development of rural areas of Armenia, Artsakh & Javakhk. And finally, the program manages to deliver the expected outcomes because it doesn’t blindly impose itself on every region. The specifics of each region is taken into account,” Dr. Armenian stated.
Dr. Armenian also mentioned that entrepreneurship is an important aspect of Armenian culture, which served as one of the foundations of TRDP’s mission. Encouraging entrepreneurship and personal initiative among the villagers would lead to the people themselves developing their communities, rather than waiting for others to do so. “This is the way of thinking the program encourages. It’s a new way of thinking among the people–that you yourself should take the initiative, earn your living, and contribute to the development of your community. We want to bring this culture, this way of thinking to Vayots Dzor, but we need to learn a lot from you as well,” Armenian appealed to the gathered guests.
In his own appeal, Mr. Ghazaryan drew attention to the fact that AUA aims to create equal opportunities for all regions in Armenia, and emphasized the importance of the program’s offerings in entrepreneurial training and adult education.
Representatives from the regional government expressed their deep appreciation for the excellent job that TRDP is carrying out in their region and for the new jobs that would result from the establishment of TRDP-supported businesses, which would help keep families from leaving their homeland and contribute to the improvement of socio-economic conditions in rural areas.
His Holiness Abraham Mkrtchyan, Primate of the Vayots Dzor region, blessed the organizers of the program and their positive contribution to Armenia, “God bless the program and all of its participants,” he said in a prayer.