My colleague, Gegham and I left Yerevan for Vanadzor at 9 a.m. in the rain. By 10 a.m., the rain had turned to snow. Road conditions remained good for the most part and we arrived at the Vanadzor Music School #3 only about 20 minutes behind schedule.
The Vanadzor Music School #3 was rebuilt after the 1988 Spitak Earthquake as a result of the efforts of the Bay Area Armenian community who used proceeds from the opening night performance and Gala Dinner of the Arshak II Opera to support the music schools reconstruction. The Paros Foundation maintains a small fund to support the school with musical instruments, building maintenance needs and other needed supplies. We have also been successful in supporting some scholarships for students attending the school. 250 students attend classes at the school, studying both classical and folk instruments, dance and vocals. It is a great place.
We visited to check up on things and assess what needs they might have. The floor in the room used for dance instruction needs to be replaced so we took some measurements and will tackle that project soon.
Next we visited the Vanadzor Museum of Fine Arts. We have worked to promote the Museum and its amazing collection of art for many years. The Museum building itself needs a considerable amount of TLC, but the museum staff is very active both holding special exhibits and activities, and working on writing grants both to sponsor special exhibits and to upgrade the facility. Be sure to include this museum on any visit to or through Vanadzor! In addition to learning about the Museum’s current needs, we visited the Museum’s Gift Shop that we built there in 2009 in memory of Angela and Karekin Barsoumian to promote the sales of local artists work to benefit both the artist and the Museum. We helped brand the Museum with both a website and official logo and a street sign several years ago and it is time to replace the outdoor sign.
Our third and final stop in the Vanadzor area was in the village of Gugark. We visited the family of one of our fallen soldiers from the April War, Nodarik Margaryan. This Hero fought in the Artsakh war in the late 80s and early 90s and had since been enlisted as a contract soldier. He was killed in Artsakh and is survived by his elderly mother, his son and daughter and one grand daughter. Nodarik’s son has a genetic disease that has kept him from physically growing. While he is 24, he appears as if he is 9 or 10 years old. The family makes ends meet through farming their plot of land and caring for 50 chickens and a cow. As part of our Support Our Heroes project, we initially met with his family in 2016 and offered them our condolences and provided the family with $1,000.
Thanks to the support of AIWA-San Francisco, we were able to revisit this family one year later and provide them with a cow as a source of ongoing economic support. With some of our remaining project funds, we wanted to assess what we could do next to help this family.
When we visited, they were already working on a plan to do some very modest barn renovations and purchase two or three pigs. It is pretty uplifting to try and assist a family that is working hard to help themselves. We will remain in close contact and help this family launch this new enterprise.
Gegham and I departed for Yerevan and made it back through the rain and snow in time to stop at the tailor shop to pick up our new Paros winter coats!