Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A New Gift

Kindergarten children in Khor Virap village, Armenia, receive with gladness gifts of UMCOR school kits and health kits.
Photo: Judith Santiago

Today I visited the Sustainable Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Project (SCEAD) in Lasarat village, Armenia, where the Ararat Mountains offer a breathtaking backdrop. The site visit was led by UMCOR’s program coordinator, Armen Khaladyan, and included a visit from the mayor of Lasarat, Daniel Hakobyan, who demonstrated pruning techniques on the program’s fruit tree demo project.

The visit included a look at the agro machinery provided by UMCOR and USDA, and a discussion on the production of 15-minute films that provide agricultural advice and techniques for famers. The films are produced by the SCEAD program Mobile Extension team, and are broadcast in Amarvir, Ararat, and Voyats dzor Marzes.  

The next stop was the Lasarat Ambulatory Clinic where UMCOR personnel met with Medical Mobile Team (MMT) doctors, health volunteers, and expectant mothers who completed mother-to-child HIV transmission awareness training. We discussed the high prevalence rate of HIV, Tuberculosis, and more in Armenia, as well as the importance of continued support from the UM Global AIDS Fund and UMCOR for more training of community health volunteers.

I then visited another cooperative, called Khor Virap, which began in 2003 and has about 76 members. Here, I met a 120-member group of women cooperative members, who expressed their desire to give back to the community by distributing in-kind gifts through UMCOR.

The highlight of the day was when I witnessed a distribution of 50 school kits and 140 health kits from UMCOR Sager Brown to 190 kindergarten students. Nozik Vaskanyuan, the village mayor, attended the distribution event and publicly thanked UMCOR for its continued support in providing assistance to vulnerable children in Armenia.

Tomorrow, I once again will visit Armenia’s Anti – Human Trafficking Project to speak with a survivor who has successfully reintegrated into society.  I will also visit a cheese distribution project, which includes a drive to Gyumri City and a visit to an orphanage there. Gyumri City was devastated by an earthquake in 1988 and I understand that remnants of that earthquake remain. 

The evening came to a close with a re-cap dinner with Gohar Grigorian, UMCOR head of mission for Armenia.  We enjoyed one another’s company and discussed life, God, and the gifts that often lay dormant within us.  As the children in Khor Virap received their new relief-supply gifts, I believe Gohar and I received one too — friendship.

Judith Santiago is the media communications associate for UMCOR.

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