Off to Gyumri
Sos, Gegham and I departed for a two day trip to Gyumri yesterday.
On the way out of town, we drove past a location in Malatya that Yerevan City Market uses to bake lavash and distribute it free to anyone who lines up for it. The oligarch that owns Yerevan City Markets is generally not well regarded, but is clearly trying to help people in need at some level (and trying to improve his image.)
On our way, we tried to visit the “Armenak & Ann Tadeossian’s” Children Rehabilitation in the Aragatsotn Region of Armenia, but the Center is closed on Monday (go figure.) The entire clinic and rehab center was built in 2014 and we have collected some funds to help with the children’s rehab related costs. We will have to connect with them next trip!
First of our “To-Dos” in Gyumri was to meet with and tell two families who are living in Domiks, that they were selected to receive new apartments through our Purchase a Home project. Initial meetings had taken place with these families about two months ago, and now, with cash in hand thanks to the Ekmekjian Family from Los Angeles, we are ready to purchase both families a new apartment and oversee the tear down of their old domiks, and thus help clear Gyumri of these eyesores. We stopped at the Shirak Center, NGO and picked up our friend Vahan Tumasyan to take us to the families we had previously screened. Unfortunately, all of these domik neighborhoods in Gyumri look kind of the same and having Vahan as a friend and partner definitely helps move along the interaction with these families. Plus we enlist Vahan’s services to help organize the crew to tear down the domik after the family has moved out.
Thanks to the generosity of a bunch of different donors, this is the 8th and 9th family we have been able to visit and tell that we are ready to move them into a new apartment. It is a humbling experience and the families are almost always in shock when they hear the news. Both Neli & Artyom (and their three kids) and Ashot & Rima (and their three kids), were quite excited with the news.
After telling both families the good news, we departed for a quick visit to The Terchoonian Home. A couple of years ago, we renovated the third floor of this orphanage/school with support from our good friend Herman Hintiryan and the Terchoonian Home Foundation in Michigan, and the Arslanian family from New Jersey. Terchoonian currently has 23 children living at the facility full time, about another 22 or
so that live their during the week and go home on weekends, and another 40 or so that come there each day and attend school and go home in the evenings. Overall things seemed ok and I was pretty impressed with a new solar array that has been installed to help subsidize the electric costs of operating the facility. Sonia, the director of Terchoonian, indicated that it has saved them as much as $300 per month in electric costs.
Next we began to cruise the Mush 2 neighborhood in Gyumri to try and find two apartments to purchase for our families. Sos had secured a couple of phone numbers and we set up appointments to view them. Most people advertise their apartments for sale by simply putting a small sign on a piece of paper in the apartment’s window. Other’s list the apartment for sale on List.am, Armenia’s version of a Craigslist type service. We successfully were able to view two apartments that might work.
Before calling it a night and heading to our hotel, we also made a short visit to Debi Arach to arrange a few facility upgrades. It was very cool to see our new SMART projectors being used to help augment the teaching methods in the math class.
We ended the day at the Gyumri Hotel. Our plan was to walk to dinner and have a drink from one of our many bottles of vodka from our Tavush trip. We figured we would ask if it was ok to drink our own and worse case just buy a bottle from the restaurant and drink ours….well, Gayane the waitress was NOT having it and totally put us in our place!
Next morning we had a quick breakfast and headed back to Mush 2 and the surrounding neighborhoods to try and secure some more potential apartments for sale. We got a couple of more leads and was able to lock up the first apartment. We got to Debi Arach and I was able to meet with Aida and Sarah and discuss our next fundraising approach while Sos and Gegham took care of a few odds and ends at the center. We barked out some orders and took off to Yerevan (LOL). On the way, we visited one of our work crews at the school in Hatsik to check up again on their progress. Things are coming along nicely! As a bonus, I was given some honey from our one of our worker’s home! Yummy!
Made it back to Yerevan at a decent hour, so instead of calling it a day, we went searching for pipes and pumps for the water project in NKA to try and solidify the budget for this project. We were able to find a vendor that called the water pipe manufacturer in Armenia and got us a firm price on the kind of pipe we need. In addition, he seems to carry some high quality fittings that we will ultimately need when running a new 2,000 meter water pipe. After this stop we called it a day and I dropped the guys off and headed home.