We left Sisian today, on a rutted road littered with herds of sheep and cattle, not a beautiful smooth dual carriageway in sight! After visiting my sponsored children yesterday I am now going to look at some of the income generating projects I am helping to support. I really believe that funding projects which enable people to help themselves is the best way of helping vulnerable families to climb out of the situations which they find themselves in.
The ‘Cucumber Kids’
My first stop was a local school which had two rather impressive gardening projects. The first was a garlic growing initiative, the profits of which supported the local kindergarten. The field was tended by parents and teachers of the children and the harvested garlic was then sold in the community. The profits had been used to fund improvements to the kindergarten, such as new furniture and heating to keep the children warm in the freezing winters. It is obvious that the school principal is a real community leader here and he has made some very good decisions for the school.
The second project was a greenhouse at the same school, this was a bigger project, but designed around the same principle. Some of the older children at the school (13-15 year olds) are getting involved in growing the cucumbers. The teenagers had recently been on 4 day seminars to teach them how to develop their gardens and look after all the vegetables until they are ready to harvest. The ‘cucumber kids’ were really proud of their crops and were enthusiastic because the profits they generated were used to support the most vulnerable children in the village, so they too could attend the school.
After lunch we drove out on even rougher roads to a much more remote village which sat next to a very picturesque lake. Here we met Araksia, a 35 year old mother of 5 who had been given a micro tunnel to grow vegetables and herbs in. I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and initiative she had poured into this. Araksia was now selling her herbs to a bakery to be used as sandwich filling, these sandwiches were then sold on to a local factory. She was also selling the herbs to a local grocer. Araksia had really thought through the marketing of her produce and was seeing great results, she told us how she had been able to buy school stationary for her children last week. This was a wonderful example of how such a simple project can be incredibly effective.
The next project we visited involved climbing a very steep, winding and dusty track to a village high up on the mountain top. This is where some of the local youth had been provided with rabbits so they could start a breeding project as a new business enterprise. We met a young man called Larenti, he had been given three rabbits, hutches and trained in rabbit husbandry and reproduction so that he was able to take care of them both in the hot summers and the cold winters. By starting a breeding programme they hoped to improve the family finances by selling the young rabbits for meat. 30 other children had also been given such opportunities.
Reflections From Armenia
What has really impressed me while visiting all these projects is how it only takes a relatively small amount of money and a lot of community enthusiasm to make such big difference. Armenia has a very high level of unemployment, but it is clear to me that many people here do want to work and make a better future for themselves and their children.
It has been a great privilege to spend time here and I look forward to visiting again in the future to see further progress. I am due to leave Armenia soon, but I would still love to answer any questions you have about what life is like here for sponsored children.
You can ask questions below or visit World Vision’s facebook page http://www.facebook.com/worldvisionuk I have also put some extra photos up on the facebook page if you would like to see more of the people and projects I have been visiting.
If you have been inspired by this blog you can Sponsor a Child in Armenia and be part of the incredibly positive work John has been talking about.
John Schneider is a World Vision supporter who has travelled to Armenia to visit his two sponsored children. He has visited Armenia twice before and also supports several income generating projects. These projects are aimed at helping families and communities to better look after vulnerable children in Armenia.