Among the many rural communities in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Artsakh) facing the possibility of depopulation is the village of Mets Shen, which is the oldest settlement in the Shoushi Region. It has a population of 119, most of whom are seniors.
The village economy is small and consists primarily of bee-keeping, agriculture, and cattle-breeding. Over the years, the community has seen serious declines in these key sectors, largely because the next generation is leaving at alarming rates.
Like many others in rural Armenia, the youth of Mets Shen have been leaving in search of opportunity and something more than what their hometowns are able to offer.
For years, Mets Shen has lacked the necessary funding to build public institutions to support civic life and community development. The mayor’s office is in the town’s dilapidated telephone station, its health clinic is in a run-down hospital, and the library is nothing more than a room in the community’s aging school. Mets Shen doesn’t even have a public hall to host gatherings or community events.
The village mayor, Mikayel Ossipyan, sees these issues as the principal reasons behind the community’s population problems. “Few young people remain in the village while the problems we face as a community persist,” Ossipyan explains.
But thats all about to start changing soon. Armenia Fund is nearing completion on the construction of a community center for Mets Shen.
The project is being sponsored by Armenia Fund Lebanon and individual donors in Armenia and Artsakh. Once complete, the two-story, 195 square-meter building, will house the mayor’s office, a medical clinic, library, and community hall. The facility will also include training centers for vocational skills and handicrafts.
The center represents a new beginning for the village, according to Mayor Ossipyan, who explains how the project is kick starting other major efforts to rebuild this community. “The community center will revitalize the village and I’m hopeful that our youth will stay put,” he says. “We’re also working hard to address the potable-water issue, all in a concerted effort to prevent our village from being depopulated.”
Armenia Fund believes that community centers are crucial to the social and economic development of rural regions in Armenia and Artsakh. They help provide public services, foster a more dynamic civic life, and ultimately give residents with one more compelling reason to continue living and working in their hometowns.
As such, Armenia Fund deeply believes that the preservation and revitalization of any community depends not only on its schools, hospitals and access to resources, but also on the health of its civil society.