|April-September 2003 Garden Vegetable
In April 2003 Dignity received $575 worth of garden vegetable seeds from the
Armenian Support Project. The seeds came in bulk packages. Armenian volunteers Gohar Hovannisian, Nina Atayan, and Nara Ghazaryan helped to develop translations
of seed planting and growing instructions. They also helped to place the seeds
in 1,000 envelopes and staple instructions to each envelope. In the spring
there were heavy rains in the Masis Region of the Ararat Valley. One village
there, Sis village is a resettlement place for refugees from Baku, where many
Armenians were killed by the Moslem population. Many of these people fled
from their homes with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Now, this
spring, all their gardens were flooded out and many did not have enough seeds
for a second planting. Due to some problems with seed storage before we got
the seed, mice had eaten all the watermelon, muskmelon, squash, spinach and
other seeds. That would be of value to the 100 families in Sis village we
planned to help. We heard that UMCOR had also received seed for their in-kind
donation program. We applied to them for a small amount of seed to fulfill
our plans. UMCOR approved our request, their approval was for about 1 ton
of seed. So we had enough for Sis village and many more villages. Levon Abrahamyan,
Chris Cofer, and volunteers from each village came to our storage and helped
package the seed needed for one family garden. In Sis village, for tax purposes,
they needed an accounting of the value of the seed they received. The seed
from UMCOR were in packages ready for retail sale and each was labeled with
a price. The value of one package was $165 and Sis village received 110 packages
the first distribution. We found two other impoverished villages nearby and
provided 210 packages for them.
Next, we visited institutions that help those we call the forgotten of Armenia.
We took seeds to Nork Nursing Home in Yerevan, Prkutuin, Gyumri Nursing House,
Hope Orphanage in Gyumri, the Street Children program in Gyumri, the Charity
kindergarten in Gyumri, and Gyumri Kindergartens 10 and 18, plus Artik Kindergarten
The USDA sponsored 4H program requested seed to be given to competitors in
their speech contest held in May, 12 super-sized packages were donated. One
was given to the best competitor from each of the 12 clubs that participated.
Although the package of seed went to the best of the club, much of the seed
was distributed among club members that attended.
In May, there was a disastrous hail storm in Hrazdan region. From our activities,
some government officials in Hrazdan knew we had seed and came to ask for
help of 770 families registered with the Armenian government as impoverished.
We loaded the first shipment of 230 packages in the little white Niva and
drove to Hrazdan. One member of each family brought their identification,
which was recorded and they were given a package. That day, we visited 7 villages
and were shown many gardens with tomatoes, potatoes, pepper plants and fruit
trees with no leaves due to the heavy hail they received. People in the Village
gathered around the Niva to present their identification and to receive the
packages of seed. A tall young man walked up and said in clear English, "You
are doing a wonderful thing for the people here, they want to thank you but
do not know English well enough to speak their feelings. God will bless you
for your kind deeds." I was amazed, a few moments later, I wanted to say something
to one of the villagers and turned to ask the young man if he would translate
for me. He was gone, probably had just been traveling through, shared that
information, and went on his way.
We have had excellent experience with Peace Corps Volunteers helping us make
sure needed materials actually are delivered to needy people. So, working
through the country director of Peace Corps, we sent email to all volunteers
in the country telling them of the seed that was available and providing contact
information. Peace Corps volunteers, working with local Non-Profit Organizations,
or through local village volunteers, facilitated distribution of 250 packages
to Shirak Region, 70 Packages to Aleverdi.