GYUMRI (RFE/RL) — A world-renowned pianist has joined a campaign initiated by an activist in the Armenian city of Gyumri to buy apartments to some of the families who continue to live in makeshift housing more than 27 years after their homes were destroyed in a powerful quake.
Despite promises of the authorities to provide all families who lost their homes in the deadly 1988 earthquake with new residences, more than 3,000 households are still officially homeless in the country’s second largest city, living in temporary lodgings known as domiks.
Last month local photographer Hayk Barseghian, who had photographed the families and the conditions in which they lived for one of his projects, decided to launch a crowd-funding campaign at one of the British websites to help a few of them. He has set the goal of raising about $175,000 within a couple of months to buy homes to 13 families who now live in domiks deprived of all conveniences.
The campaign has so far raised about $40,000, but unless the goal is met by a deadline, the money pledged by the donors will be returned to them.
To boost the campaign, Tigran Hamasian, a 28-year-old award-winning jazz pianist famous far beyond Armenia, traveled to his native Gyumri, some 120 kilometers to the northwest of capital Yerevan, on Saturday to give an open-air concert in support of the cause.
He says he originally planned to play inside one of the makeshift houses, but eventually ended up having an outdoor concert in front of an audience of over a thousand listeners, some of whom had come also from other areas of Armenia.
“It’s a shame that people still live in these conditions,” Hamasian said, hoping that the crowd funding campaign will eventually achieve its goal. “It’s a terrible feeling that one cannot describe with words. I feel ashamed as a man who comes from this town.”
Hamasian’s concert helped raise some money for the cause immediately, with Barseghian hoping that the campaign will manage to meet the target by March 20.