GYUMRI RISES AGAIN
Organized by: Margarit Ordukhanyan
Twenty-seven years ago, Armenia was struck by one of the deadliest and most devastating earthquakes in modern human history. While we in Yerevan were spared most of the disaster's wrath, it practically demolished the second-largest city in Armenia, Gyumri. The initial outpouring of sympathy, help, and support gave way to decades of absolutely and shameful neglect. The post-soviet years were hard on Armenia, and the people dispossessed by the earthquake fell through the cracks, receding into shantytowns on the outskirts of cities and towns still in ruins. These poor, homeless people live in conditions that have no place in 21-st century Armenia. They have been betrayed by governments, administrations, social structures, and people. Imagine families of up to 14 people living in cardboard shanties with no heating and hot water, through winters during which temperatures drop to 0F. Imagine children, for whom a slice of bread is a luxury they can only dream of. Fortunately, young Armenians living in Armenia and abroad are finally beginning to wake up to the reality of the horrific living conditions right outside the civilized capital. Yes, recriminations are frequent (and perhaps just), but while we clamor for social and political change, these poor people, failed by ALL OF US, continue to suffer. A dear friend of mine, Teresa Mkhitaryan, together with some very trust-worthy associates, has begun a relentless campaign to raise funds to feed and clothe these people, and, most importantly, to put a roof over their heads. What started as a food-drive has turned into a massive grass-roots movement to buy apartments for the families living in these shanties, and to rescue them from the awful, indescribable poverty in which they find themselves. Her efforts have already resulted in three apartments being purchased and transferred to the ownership of three different families in Gyumri, as you can see here. I have known her for years and trust her completely, so I can vouch that every penny we collect and transfer will go towards putting a roof over yet another family's head. More pictures of her work can be found here.
This is our communal heartbreak. This is our communal shame. This is our communal responsibility. Please help me help this noble cause and wipe the sadness out of these children's eyes.