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World Vision celebrates ten years of ministry in Armenia reported by Tigran Yepoyan, World Vision Armenia Program and Communications Manager:
This past December World Vision Armenia celebrated ten years of ministry in Armenia and joined the Armenian people and the international community in remembering the victims of the devastating earthquake of 1988 which took the lives of 25,000 people and left another 500,000 homeless.
World Vision entered Armenia almost immediately after the earthquake and within a few days had delivered more than $1 million in medical supplies including medicines, orthopaedic devices and other items to those in the worst hit areas. Five truckloads of toys valued at over $500,000 arrived two weeks later for children deprived of Christmas presents. Altogether World Vision mounted a $2.8 million relief effort of their own and also assisted other humanitarian agencies in transporting relief goods.
An economic blockade imposed on Armenia by neighbouring countries in 1988, followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, caused the deterioration of the Armenian economy and had a negative impact on the living conditions of thousands of families. Many households had no food to eat and no fuel to heat their homes during the freezing winter. World Vision responded by distributing life-saving food staples to some 24,000 families in Armenia and the Mountainous Karabakh.
In early 1992 World Vision was privileged to co-ordinate a $3.7 million food relief program funded by the US government. Donation of food items supplemented the diets of 300,000 needy people including the homeless, displaced, unemployed, sick and elderly.
1993 witnessed a major shift in World Vision's programming from direct relief aid to long-term development assistance. A two-week management training seminar was also sponsored for NGO and church leadership during that year, together with a seminary program for the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Six years after World Vision had begun its work in Armenia, some earthquake victims still lived in container homes which offered little protection against the cold Armenian winters. In 1994, World Vision began a community development and shelter weatherization project in Gumri, the second largest Armenian city badly affected by the earthquake. A total of five hundred container homes received new foundations, roofs, and walls to keep the families who lived there warm in winter.
In 1996, World Vision launched a micro-enterprise development (MED) program aimed at alleviating poverty and creating sustainable livelihoods. Drawing from global experience in MED, World Vision created an Armenian model that directly supports the emerging small business sector and brings families out of poverty. Since the program's inception, over 1,300 business have been established and expanded, 4,084 jobs have been created and sustained which enables the employees to meet the basic food, health and educational needs of 11,518 dependants, including, 3,769 children.
To administer the MED program World Vision established SEF International, a non-bank community based credit institution. In April 1988, the SEF's head office was established in the capital city of Yerevan. A branch office was opened in Sisian in southern Armenia in June 1998. SEF branches support local businesses, train loan clients, empower people for civic initiatives and promote greater social conscience.
This year, World Vision is joining religious leaders and officials in preparations for the upcoming celebration of the 1,700-year anniversary of the adoption of Christianity in Armenia.
Over the past ten years, World Vision Armenia has modelled an effective and sustainable country development strategy, beginning with emergency relief activities and gradually moving into transformational development initiatives. Though WV Armenia is pleased with its past achievements, many more challenges still lie ahead.
"Our micro-enterprise development program creates jobs and empowers people to provide for their children and families with dignity" says Robert Dira, the Director of WV Armenia. "But there are still many more basic needs which we want to address, by expanding our existing programs and developing new ones. These include bringing drinking water to villages where there is none, initiating income generating projects for single mothers, and supporting elderly persons who have no financial means to survive." "We are committed to our ministry in Armenia," Mr. Dira concluded, "and we believe that it is making a meaningful contribution to the country's economic development, recovery and social renewal."
Last updated: February 1999
A print version of much of the information contained in this NIS Third Sector Organizations section can be found in the The Post-Soviet Handbook (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1999).