VAHAGNI — It is common knowledge that villages in Armenia are neglected and lack the many necessities that the west considers a part of normal life. The mountainous village of Vahagni in the Lori region is no exception. At one time this village had a population of over 3000. Today that number has fallen below 1000. Due to lack of employment opportunities, many have already left the village for cities in Armenia like Vanatzor and Yerevan, or immigrated to Russia, Europe and the USA.
This past summer a group of seven volunteers went from the US at their own expense and traveled to Vahagni, Armenia on a specific mission: to redesign a small house for a new use as a kindergarten. The trip was organized by Dorcas Aid America, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Dorcas International based in Holland.
The future kindergarten had been purchased in 2014. Skilled local men in Vahagni worked diligently for nearly one year to make structural improvements (change the roofline, accommodate a new sunny multipurpose room, install a bathroom, level the outdoor area and build a fence). When the team from the US arrived in July, 2015, there was still plenty of work to be done to complete the renovation work (electrical wiring, plumbing, hanging cabinets, painting and refinishing the floors, painting the exterior walls).
The public was invited for an official opening. Thirty kindergarten children from the village, along with their parents, gathered for the festive dedication and to hear the team members express their appreciation for the opportunity to serve. The mayor’s representative read a proclamation letter with the message that this was their kindergarten and it needed the support and involvement of the entire community. Finally, the children gathered in a circle holding hands while two of them had the honor of cutting the ribbon in front of the kindergarten door.
The structure was complete and the long-awaited hope of having a kindergarten in Vahagni was to become a reality. Until now, Vahagni had only one school for students above age five; the thirty children from ages 3 to 5 had no opportunity for preschool education. The team had a new challenge before them: how to finance the operation of this kindergarten. The annual cost was estimated to be $12,000 which included salaries of four staff, utility expenses, school supplies and also food for the children. As previously agreed, Dorcas was willing to pay only for the purchase and the renovation of the property, for which we are thankful. Funds would be needed to operate the school.
Upon their return from Armenia, four of the volunteers made a commitment to support this kindergarten and similar projects in villages in Armenia. These volunteers had already participated in projects like this one and, in every case, achieved their goal. The earlier projects included renovating a medical clinic and a church, opening a bakery and helping individuals open small businesses which created additional employment opportunities. Recently these four volunteers formally committed themselves to the welfare of village people in Armenia by forming the non-profit organization Armenian Village Aid, Inc. (AVA).
AVA was incorporated in November of 2015 and immediately started to create awareness about the desperate condition of villages in Armenia. Through raising funds from their own efforts and donations from concerned individuals, enough additional money was raised to furnish the kindergarten, install a heating system, purchase school supplies, toys and kitchen utensils and salaries through June. However AVA needs the support of caring friends to continue the operation of the school through the summer for Vacation Bible School, and into the new school year.
The needs in this and other villages in Armenia is tremendous. The villagers who have made a commitment to stay, need encouragement and support. One kindergarten will not resolve the migration of villagers, but it does give hope. Efforts such as this kindergarten sends a clear message to those who are the future generation: the children of the villages are not forgotten or neglected, but are loved and worth the effort. We therefore kindly ask those who are concerned with the future of our free homeland to extend their support, even with humble gifts. Because AVA has no overhead expenses, every penny invested will bring a great return.
If you wish to join the group and support its mission, kindly contact us at 201-314-2548, email us at [email protected] or send your donations to Armenian Village Aid, Inc. at 27 Beverly Road, Hillsdale, NJ 07642.
You can make a difference. Thank you and God bless you.