Displaced Berdzor Armenians with their new cow

TCA Sustainable Assistance Program Continues to Help Berdzor Refugees in Armenia

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VAYOTS DZOR province, Armenia – After the loss of the Vahan Tekeyan School of Berdzor, Artsakh Republic, the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada (TCA) began a program of aid to the school’s staff and alumni who had suddenly become refugees. The program has been implemented in two stages so far, and is ongoing.

Through small contributions and mass funding, income-generating opportunities were created for the displaced families. TCA in association with a local NGO called Syunik Development has made investments in agriculture and beekeeping to create income or comforts for their beneficiaries. The recipients get assistance on the condition that, after a waiting period of two years, they pay back on an annual basis the equivalent in produced goods of 10% of the amount of assistance they have received.

The TCA Sustainable Assistance Project is coordinated and implemented by Arto Manoukian of Montreal, a TCA board member and monitored by the TCA’s Armenia representative, Gayané Muratyan, with the assistance of Anahit Kosakyan, the last principal of the Berdzor Tekeyan school.

Apiculture

Eight families were given bee colonies, hives, training and various equipment in the first stage in the plan, which has been described in a prior article in the Mirror-Spectator. Two excerpts from letters from Tekeyan School students in these families give a further idea of the effects of this assistance.

Syuzanna Ghambaryan, a seventh-grade student in the city of Jermuk, Armenia, and an alumna of the Vahan Tekeyan School of Berdzor, writes as follows.

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“One of the vivid memories of my childhood is the ceremony of squeezing out honey, when my whole family was assembled together. This was all before the war, and the unfortunate war deprived us of the opportunity to enjoy those pleasant moments.

After the war, good people appeared in our lives, who offered us helped, and tried to ease our life, which had turned into a nightmare, with their good deeds. Arto Manoukian, a board member of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of Canada [and the United States], for whom philanthropy is a way of life, provided five bee colonies to several families in Vayots Dzor, including ours. We moved the bee colonies to my grandfather’s ancestral home, in Herher village of the Vayots Dzor province. It is true that I am very afraid of bee stings, but I follow the work of the bees with love and interest.

I like their diligence, friendliness, their ability to communicate with one other, the division of labor, and, most importantly, the blessing created by their work – honey. We even managed to enjoy the first bountiful gift they gave us and treat the neighbors. I will tell you about its immortal taste later.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like to express my thanks to all those people, who organized, implemented, and provided, and returned me to my childhood memories about my native Berdzor. I hope the program will continue and many of my friends will also be able to benefit from the support of people who create and do good.

Thank you Tekeyan for standing by our side. Of course, this was not the first time. My school was becoming more beautiful day by day through your help and that of other benefactors, but the unfortunate war left our dreams unfinished.”

A second student attests: “I, Rafik Aleksanyan, was born and raised in Berdzor of the Artsakh Republic. I received my education at the Vahan Tekeyan School, which was renovated by the Tekeyan [Cultural] Association in recent years. After the unfortunate war, we moved to the village of Malishka in the province of Vayots Dzor. The Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada extended a helping hand to a number of families displaced from Artsakh. I express my deep gratitude to all the organizers of the union, for giving me and my family two heads of cattle at this difficult time. May God bless you and may my nation never see war. Thank you!”

TCA representative in Armenia Gayane Muratyan holding some of the honey produced by Berdzor refugees that was displayed at Armenia Expo 2021 this September

The honey produced is marketed together with the honey from other produces in the same province under the name Mountain Miracle Honey (see https://www.facebook.com/mountainmiraclehoney). Mountain Miracle Honey was represented at the Armenia Expo 2021 trade forum this September.

Animal Husbandry

For the second stage of the program, the former principal of the Berdzor Tekeyan School, Anahit Kosakyan, prepared a list of the families connected with the school living in various villages of Vayots Dzor province who had the necessary desire, ability and environment to raise domesticated animals.

The Syunik Development organization visited these families and studied their surroundings, especially the available stables for animals. When it was clear that conditions were sufficient for keeping animals, they selected healthy ones with the aid of an veterinarian and delivered them to four families.

Hovhannes Avagyan, for example, lives in the village of Sers, with the other five members of his family. He promised that he could take care of two cows and signed a contract to provide, after two years pass, one calf to another displaced family from Artsakh. Meanwhile, his family would use the milk, butter and yogurt produced through these cows for its immediate needs.

Aragats, an alumnus of the Tekeyan School, lives with his five-person family in Herher village of Vayk. His family takes care of six pigs. The animals’ feed has been provided for the first four months, after which his family must provide it. Aragats’s father, Ararat Avagyan, said, “If necessary, perhaps I will slaughter them to use their meat, but I will never give up keeping pigs. I am in agreement that in one year I will willingly give two pigs to a needy Artsakh native. Let him also keep and increase the number of the pigs.”

Some of the pigs donated through the Tekeyan Cultural Association to the Berdzor refugees

Arevik Sargsyan worked as a cleaning woman in the Berdzor school, and recalls the annual visits of the Tekeyan Cultural Association representatives, with their financial aid. She was upset and exclaimed, “I lost my only son in last year’s war. I have no home. Now I have moved to Martiros village. At first I lived with my brother’s eight-person family. In the framework of the program, I received two cows. I am very happy and satisfied, but unfortunately my brother’s family is large. Even the space to sleep is scanty. It seems that soon I must go rent a home and live by myself. My brother helps. I will work to live.”

Lusine Chichakyan with her four-person family lives in Malishka village. She also has received two cows, has a stable and a small storage room for animal feed. She succeeded in obtaining hay in the summer for the animals’ winter provisions.

Cattle given to the Berdzor refugees

A fifth family was helped by donor Tony Halepli, through the Canadian Atken Armenian Foundation. It is a six-person family, with four minor children and mother Takuhi Stepanyan. The family, originally from the village of Van in Kashatagh, received six pigs and feed for four months.

The Tekeyan Cultural Association thanks all those who have supported the TCA Sustainable Assistance Program and encourages further support to these families who are victims of war and are attempting to create stable lives in Armenia instead of emigrating elsewhere. In the United States, please send your checks made out to the Tekeyan Cultural Association with the memo “Berdzor Project” to 755 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, MA 02472, or use our online link https://givebutter.com/NLWnPU. Donations are tax-deductible.

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