Expend my summer vacation to get to know Armenia has been the most wonderful adventure in my life. From the moment I arrived in Sarigyugh I felt at home. During the first days, I was getting to know the town and friends. People were creating a wonderful community that within a few days I felt totally integrated despite the language barrier, I was already one like them. One of the best moments of the trip was to collaborate and encourage the children in the first Sarigyugh Cup, I was amazed by how the children played despite the weather conditions.
During my last days, I taught drawing and acrobatics workshops to give back to society everything that had brought me. I loved how the children participated in the activities and shared this experience with them.
After this trip, I became aware of the need to restore the cultural center of Sarigyugh so that the people can develop activities and continue to grow as a community, and I am so lucky to be able to collaborate from Amsterdam.
CULTURAL PROGRAM COORDINATOR MY STEP FOUNDATION
Once upon a time I went to Sarigyugh. Before going to Sarigyugh there was already one aspect that made me thrilled about the whole idea. The cultural center's building in Sarigyugh is worn out, but it didn't stop Project Sari from organizing a festival, right in front of the decaying building! Thus, giving a message that the building is not the most important thing but are the people, their determination and will.
Once I was in Sarigyugh myself I realized the magic of it. I had two sessions with children and teenagers when we gathered in a nice simple room and talked about the role of art in our lives and how it has changed the world... and it was amazing. These children have the strength of the world in them and it takes an experienced dreamer like Lucine to transform this energy into organized action.
ENTREPRENEUR/RECRUITMENT MANAGER TEACH FOR ARMENIA
I was trying to recruit Lucine to Teach For Armenia when I have learnt about the existence of Sarigyugh village in the Tavush region. While I was often traveling in that area, I have never noticed it before. Surprisingly, I learnt that the community is being activized through different culture, education and sports related activities. Sari Fest was the time I have decided to see everything with my own eyes. I was shocked when I noticed a great stage with a cool band in front of the old and destroyed cultural center and community members selling the goods and handcrafts prepared by them. One would wonder who would join this fest but many did. People of neighboring areas, as well as those residing in Yerevan appeared in the event to see what is going on! A real party with both community and high level officials involved. The idea-attract attention towards the village and especially towards the renovation of the cultural center.
These new dynamics were inspiring to me, especially because by the end of the day I have already learnt the recent history of the village, which was not bright. In the post-Soviet area, locals dismantled and sold the water-related infrustracture and many other things like that. Thus although having a huge water reservoir right behind the mountain, Sarigyugh has water issues. Sari fest was a new approach to it. Later I was invited to train local business people in the sphere of business development. I was surprised that people from far villages also joined the session and we had a great talk with them on the ways of business development based on their own context and reality. I really wish that the change which has already started will have a long lasting effect!
It's a little hard to explain in words what I've seen and experienced working with Project SARI. I have seen children immersed in rural worries, I have seen poverty, I have seen the hands of a thirteen-year-old who has been stricken with hard work, I have seen teenagers overcoming hunger with a piece of bread. Yes, I have seen them because we grew up with these children, side by side, many of us were once one of them. Children are not to blame for all these difficulties, but their past cannot be changed.
I have felt that these children, who have already faced the greatest difficulties in life, have not yet forgotten the beauty of smiling, the colours of joy, they want to conceal all these injustices in the bright sunshine, and run into the fields full of flowers.
Children need a hand that reaches out and answer their questions, in their own language, in their own words. After reaching out, I saw the shine in their eyes, I saw them in poverty but now striving to build their dream future, I saw the hands of a hard-working 13-year-old touching a musical instrument and making music, I saw a them finding a way to set up businesses. The reaching hand is Project SARI.
Photo Journalist/Communications Manager Helsinki Capital Partners
I was invited to do a portrait series of the people of Sarigyugh by my friend Lucine Ellarian. It was going to be a photographic journey to the town and an attempt to document people building the community. The aim of the photo series was to draw more attention to rural Armenia.
I reached the village from Georgia by a taxi in the middle of the night. At that moment I truly felt that I am far away from home. I first thought that finding faces for my portrait series would be difficult. Turned out I could not have been further away from truth.
The town is adorable. It is a gem. It lies in a lush valley that grows all sorts of fruits and vegetables. On the surrounding mountain slopes, you see pigs, cows and chicken running around. People live mostly in an exchange economy. Besides agriculture the town has little to offer to its people. Especially the kids lack chances for finding inspiration, jobs, education, hobbies, and partners.
The reception was warm. I shot nearing 50 people – all of them in the environment where I met them in natural light. Only one old man did not want to be photographed, and still he wanted to tell me his story. It was the experience of a lifetime.
PEDAGOGUE/PSYCHOLOGIST SOS CHILDREN´S VILLAGE
I am a pedagogue-psychologist by profession. I always dreamed of doing community work. I heard about SԱRI FEST from my friends. They invited me to attend an event so important to my home village. An invitation from my friends aroused in me a keen desire to join the event's organizing team, at that moment I didn't know much about Project SARI.
I was among the volunteers coordinating the market stands. I am very proud to have been a part of SԱRI FEST 2019 as a member of Project SARI and I am confident that the project will be continuous and inclusive. Doing public, community-based work and giving a smile to hard working people is a great profession.
We are stronger when we have supporters. Deeply concerned about the disproportionate development of Armenia, I myself, take steps to identify the problems of rural communities and change the environment there. In this context, any program that does the same thing is a great motivator and inspiration.
Project SARI is another "healthy" seed in this context, as it focuses on the province, the village and youth, instilling children with motivation, creativity, hope and opportunities to develop. And we are, in fact, a healthy community with the motivation to build a bright future for the children of our villages.