By Vic Gerami

It’s easy to focus on the negative with daily news of assaults on Armenia, Artsakh, and Armenians. But as they say in 12-Steps, we must not stay in the problem but get into the solution. Several non-profit organizations do just that. They help move Artsakh and Armenia out of their challenges, provide resources and support, and foster a better future. The list of these worthy organizations is too long, so I’ll cover a few that I know best and personally.

ArmeniaTools4Schools + Knights of Vartan

Jacob Bournazian

Armenia Tools4Schools, a 501©3 non-profit organization, is dedicated to helping the youth in the border regions of Armenia learn vocational trade skills for earning a living. Their projects contribute to the small towns’ economic infrastructure and agricultural land areas along Armenia’s border. The vocational/technical trade schools in the rural areas and border regions of Armenia and Artsakh need tools and equipment to teach students the basic trade skills for electricians, welding, tailoring, culinary, agricultural science, and machinery repair. Armenia Tools4Schools provides funding to purchase tools and equipment for vocational schools and renovate the facilities to train students. Providing youths with vocational trade skills increases their employment opportunities and contributes to the socio-economic development in the border regions.

The buildings in the town of Martuni, surrounding villages, and schools suffered heavy artillery bombardment during the October 2020 war. Four buildings at the Vladik Khatchadourian Vocational school were destroyed, two buses were blown up by drones while transporting passengers, and the school’s whole technical/material foundation was burglarized. Basic transportation infrastructure, as well as electricity and clean running water, were destroyed. The school’s buses were blown up by drones while carrying passengers on the road in the October 2020 war. The Knights of Vartan and Armenia Tools4schools coordinated their funding with the Ministry of Education and the school director to ensure the most pressing needs were funded. The Knights of Vartan also purchased a car to teach driver’s education, providing valuable transportation services to residents during the war.

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The damage to the school from the war caused a shift in priorities and additional supply needs for the school. The Knights of Vartan tripled funding from 2019 to 2021 to quickly restore safe transportation for the students living in the surrounding villages to attend vocational school. Funds were provided to construct a metal fence along the perimeter of the school property and install a new highway road sign at the entrance to the school. The perimeter fence and LED lighting on the entrance road sign are solar-powered, so the school perimeter stays lit. A new generator was purchased to provide a backup internal power source in the event of a power outage. ArmeniaTools4Schools donated $5,000 to buy equipment, furniture, computers, tools, and supplies for the metalworking, carpentry, machine repair, sewing, hair styling, and culinary departments. ‘It is a miracle the Armenians protected Martuni and survived continuous Azeri attacks during October 2020. We hope that the new metal fence and solar lighting to the school property will deter future artillery and drone attacks on the school by marking this property as a civilian government facility’ said Jacob Bournazian, a regional representative for the Knights of Vartan, and the initiator of the Vladik Khatchadourian Vocational School project.

The new equipment and tools provide the means for students to learn by hands-on training from professional instructors in the trade departments. “The work of Armenia Tools4Schools along with the Knights of Vartan should inspire others to assist in our homeland in a manner that not only offers assistance today but in a manner that will generate benefits into the future”, said Steven R. Adams, Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan.

‘This generous donation from the Knights of Vartan and Armenia Tools4Schools gave us hope and faith. The school, being damaged during the 44-day war, not only would get back on its normal course, but also enabled the education and preparation of professional specialists in our country for a better future’ said Artak Sargsyan, director of the school.

The Knights of Vartan also provided $25,000 in funding in 2021 to start small businesses in the villages in the Martuni province. Presentations were coordinated with local officials and meetings held with people during the summer in the 10 villages that surround the town of Martuni. 36 applications were received, and 5 individuals were selected to start new businesses. Tools and equipment were purchased for the businesses. The owners are responsible for 20% of the costs including building renovation and site clearing. By November, 2021, 3 greenhouses for small scale local food production were opened for business in three towns, a hair salon in Taghavard, vodka production distillery in Hatsi, and a shoe repair business in Martuni all opened in November. All the businesses are prospering in 2022 and supporting families. A coordinated small business development program is needed to replace the welfare-based aid that the Armenian government and other non-profit organizations are providing refugees said Jake Bournazian of the Knights of Vartan, initiator of this project. As we fund the opening of more small businesses, we help re-build a middle class in these rural agricultural communities. The improvements we are doing at the vocational school will be realized in the villages as graduating students learn how to use new agricultural greenhouse technologies and transition from a livestock based agricultural economy, said George Bournazian, president of Armenia Tools4schools.

The Knights of Vartan Inc. is a fraternal leadership and service organization of Armenian men dedicated to safeguarding and perpetuating the Armenian heritage and cultural traditions. Its membership represents the spectrum of the leadership of the Armenian community. It was founded in 1916 in Philadelphia and is based the United States with 22 local chapters which support Armenian causes around the world. For more information about the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, visit

Len and Armine Wicks

Origins: Discovery  ‘Adopt a Village’ & Areni Open Air Cultural Museum

Len Wicks & Armine Hakobyan Wicks

Origins: Discovery’s ‘Adopt-a-Village’ (AAV) project is the initiative of the husband-and-wife team of Len Wicks who is Australian/New Zealander, and Armenian Armine Hakobyan Wicks. The project aims to beautify villages for tourism and help rural Armenians with direct support projects. The objective of the Origins Project is to open the world’s eyes to the beauty of Armenia and its ancient culture. Together, the two projects are intended to encourage tourism and business, and recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

‘The Adopt-a-Village (AAV) program prepares Armenia for tourism and focuses on strengthening the rural heartland by mentoring every village through a direct relationship with the diaspora and friends of Armenia,’ said Len Wicks, founder of Origins: Discovery. He added, ‘This is intended to stop depopulation that the over-emphasis on the development of Yerevan has actually worsened, which is a security threat. Eventually, this direct relationship might encourage some diaspora to move to the rural heartland, like the founders of AAV have done.’

Len and Armine are building a lodge in an orchard surrounded by water and nature. Areni Lodge is a part of the Adopt-a-Village project which aims at reaching every Armenian village. Aside from Vayots Dzor, the AAV projects also operate in Ararat and Shirak provinces.

The AAV project and the construction of Areni Lodge provide multiple benefits for the area and local people. The project encourages tourism and trade in the area and provides jobs for the locals. It also helps reverse depopulation which has been becoming a major issue on the background of rising ongoing between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

As the village of Areni is located closer to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border where the risk of military conflict is still high, the risk of depopulation is high too. Continuing to build and create is important for many reasons, including keeping the locals in high spirits and with hopes for a brighter and peaceful future.

The Areni Open Air Cultural Museum is sited in Areni, next to the beautiful Arpa River. The Museum’s development is part of the Adopt-a-Village charity program to help strengthen rural Armenia. The Museum will be administered by the Areni Municipality for the benefit of local artisans and the wider community.

HDRC staffers and some of the veterans they are helping

Homeland Defender’s Rehabilitation Center (HDRC)

Homeland Defender’s Rehabilitation Center (HDRC) was established in collaboration between the ‘Support for the Wounded Soldiers and Soldiers with Disabilities’ NGO, Yerevan State Medical University (YSMU) and the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia. HDRC is equipped with top-rate modern equipment needed for rehabilitation treatment, unparalleled in the region and is operated via the latest methods used in rehabilitation treatment industry and first-class research technologies.

The HDRC is a comprehensive rehabilitation complex. Both initial passive rehabilitation treatment and active treatment are provided at the Center. It provides all the necessary medical services with their interdisciplinary team of specifically trained experts, including rehabilitation doctors, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, psychologists, speech therapists, and other highly qualified specialists.

The center is in the premises of the First Clinical Hospital operated by YSMU which gives them access to the professional services of the university’s teaching and lecturing staff. The university’s hospital, its intensive care unit, laboratory, medical equipment are at the center’s disposal.

A few of the treatments offered at the HDRC include brain and spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, neurological problems, meningitis, encephalitis, radiculitis, neuritis, post-stroke rehabilitation, among others.

The center also provides the services of kinesiotherapy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, water kinesiotherapy, acupuncture, halotherapy, ergotherapy, paraffin therapy, speech therapist, psychologist, massage, etc. All the experts are highly qualified and leading specialists in their spheres who have taken international training courses in various European countries.

There are two pools available at the center for the disabled patients who can walk and for those who use wheelchairs. The latter is equipped with a transportation crane. A water massage cabin is available for the full body treatment and two separate water massage cabins are available for the upper and lower limbs.

Beauty By Soldiers is a project the HDRC that provides several benefits, including a source of income for the Center, jobs for the veterans and a type of art therapy for their psychological rehabilitation. Natural butterflies bred in special farms around the world are donated to the Center. The soldiers are paid to create unique art compositions in special glass, which are then sold for considerable amounts. They give a second life to beauty without harming nature. All proceeds from the sale of the artworks fund the Center’s various programs.

For more information about the gala, please visit

(Vic Gerami is an award-winning journalist and the editor + publisher of The Blunt Post. Gerami is also the host and co-producer of the national headline news + politics program, THE BLUNT POST with VIC on KPFK 90.7 FM (Pacifica Network). )

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