|August 26, 2002 Gyumri Hayastani and
I met a lady named Hayastani. The picture is of Hayastani in front of her
domik. Notice she has grown a fruit tree and has a prolific garden for
food. Armenians call their country Hayastan. So, her name is the
equivalent to a name "Woman of America", only for Armenia. Petros Malakyan,
former director of ARDA, nick names her "mother Armenia". He has known her
10 years and says she has never asked him for anything except work. She
tended flowers in the yard of the kindergarten Petros's organization
sponsors the early part of this summer. He took me to her home. It is
called a domik. They are shacks thrown up for people to survive in the
winter of the earthquake. It gets to minus 20 degrees in Gyumri during the
winter. Her domik is made of cast off tin, no insulation. The earthquake
was 14 years ago and thousands of people are still living in various forms
of domiks. Her husband and her daughters husband were killed in the
earthquake, as I understand it. So they have no one to support them or
promote their opportunities for better housing.
This is a picture of Hayisstani's front door. The numbers on the tin are
numbers various government agencies and charitable organizations have
painted there for their programs. But she and her remaining family members
are still here in the domik.
Petros met Hayastani about 10 years ago. He was standing outside in the
cold waiting to meet with one of her neighbors. Hayastani saw him and
invited him into her domik to warm up with coffee. He went in and was
appalled. There was really no furniture in the house except a table,
chairs and a cabinet in the front room and one single bed in the bed room.
After the coffee he thought a lot about this situation and was praying
about it. Within three days a friend who worked in the American Embassy
told him some people had left and did not take their furniture. Petros
went to look at the furniture and it was beautiful. He was told that if he
could take it out he could have it for the people in Gyumri. So he loaded
it in a truck. Some friends looked at it and said, that furniture is like
new, it is better than your furniture Petros, you are not going to let it
go to a domik family are you. Petros dais, I was praying about it, this
came, I best give it. The furniture is still beautiful, well taken care
of. There is a nice couch, several beds, two large dressers, and two
cabinets. They are about hidden behind the group in the inside picture.
Hayastani wants her granddaughter (on the far right) to be able to go to
college again this year. So she has been cutting costs by inviting girls
from rural areas to live with her. Then more people can share the costs.
Hayastani, her daughter (on the far left) and her grand daughter share
their home with three other college girls. But still they do not have
enough money to afford higher education.
We need $20 per month for each of the four girls so they can go to college
this year. $20 per month will allow them to afford tuition, clothing and
books for the school year. Petros found a donor who bought them 3 cu.
meters of firewood for the winter and between Hayastani, her daughter, the
garden, and social programs they will have food. Tuition is about $200
which leaves $40 for books and clothing. A slim budget, but they really
want to go to school.You can see that even in their poverty they are clean
and well dressed. The grand daughter hopes to be in her second year of
college in a couple of weeks. The other girls are still with their
families in rural areas working until school starts. Hayastani's domik has
2 rooms, you see one. The other is all beds which have to be stacked in
order for there to be any room on the floor for walking.
The last picture is of Hayastani's daughter, Hrahat, Petros, and
Hayastani's grand daughter. Hrahat and Petros are with the Armenia
Reconstruction and Development Agency.