MARTUNI, Artsakh — Several diaspora organizations have combined efforts to renovate the vocational school in the town of Martuni in Artsakh. The Knights of Vartan, together with the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, Genesis Armenia, Armenia Tools4Schools, the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Church in the United States, Sahman NGO, Armenian Educational Foundation, Armenian Tree Project, and the government of the Artsakh Republic (Republic of Nagorno Karabakh) provided funding to re-build the facilities. The site has been bombed in two wars, from the early 1990s to 2020, and the buildings were severely damaged. The school is the largest educational facility in the province with approximately 110 students trained in seven vocational departments, including in welding, wood working, sewing, and the culinary arts. The students live in the town itself and surrounding border villages.
“In the 1990s, the local headquarters of Artsakh’s Defense Forces was located here in our school. Commander Monte Melkonian’s office was in this room, which is my office now,” said Artak Sargsyan, the director of the vocational school. The reconstruction of the building facilities has been in process for two years now and was ongoing in front of our eyes while we toured the area.
The Genesis Armenia foundation, led by Yerevan-based reporter and activist Abraham Gasparyan, supplied new sewing machines for the tailoring department. Its purpose is two-fold – its equipment can be used both for teaching purposes and for manufacturing. Gayane Matevosyan, the department coordinator, noted that the employment provided helps the local residents recover from post-traumatic stress related from the 44-day war and living on the border next to Azerbaijani army.
“I have no doubts that in future our products will be recognized not only in Martuni and the Republic of Artsakh, but well beyond,” said Gayane.
During the 2020 aggression, in unsuccessful assaults to capture the area, the Azerbaijani-Turkish forces dropped more bombs and shelled Martuni more than the capital Stepanakert. The lab and several buildings were severely damaged, and their school-buses were blown up. After hostilities were over, the US-based Knights of Vartan organization and Armenia Tools4Schools pitched in to rebuild.
When classes resumed in January 2021, there were no buses to transport the students from the villages. “It would take two hours for the parents to drive groups of students to the school. After the Knights of Vartan’s Jake Bournazian provided new school buses, the transit time decreased to 40 minutes,” noted Artak. The organization also purchased a used car for the school to teach the students how to drive.