Economic Development Program
FAR’s Economic Development Program gives people and communities the tools they need to improve their lives through access to resources, education, skills training, and other types of assistance—crucial ways for beneficiaries to feel empowered to change their lives and better their communities.
Economic Development Program
Stepan & Margarita
Three years ago, Stepan Davtyan, 66, and his wife, Margarita, 62, decided to establish their very own “gastro yard” in their small village in Armenia’s Tavush Region.
While Stepan’s family has made its own wine for generations it was primarily kept within the family. By launching Davtyan’s Wine in 2018 they hoped to be able to host local and foreign visitors and introduce them to the family label.
Stepan applied for FAR’s Small Business Assistance Program (SBA), which expanded during 2020 from exclusively helping Syrian-Armenians to also assisting entrepreneurs in the Ijevan Region of Tavush Province. The program provides much-needed financial assistance to business owners in order for them to launch or expand their enterprises. SBA helped Stepan to purchase tools like a wine filtering kit, bottles, corks, etc.
“The production process has become much faster than before. If not for the filtering kit, we would have to take the containers to a wine production unit to be filtered, which takes days,” said Stepan.
Both Stepan and Margarita are fond of their small family business which has also become their main source of income after previously making their living primarily through animal husbandry.
While Stepan cultivates the rkatsiteli grapes in the field, Margarita dries fruits for visitors.
Margarita proudly states that visitors love to have her homemade pakhlava, which is a must for wine degustation, she said. “I usually have dried fruits, pakhlava and a variety of cheeses for my guests. They love to taste, take photos under our old palma tree, which is rare in this region, breathe fresh air, and chat with us.”
“Achajur [our village] is unique with its clean water, fresh air, and industrious people. Maybe that’s why visitors love this place,” said Stepan. “This was a hidden dream for us, to have a gastro wine and produce it properly. Our dream came true.”
Small Business Assistance Program
The Small Business Assistance Program (SBA), helps ambitious entrepreneurs to establish or grow their small businesses through grants and in-kind support.
After its success among the Syrian-Armenian population and the 2020 expansion to help entrepreneurs in the Ijevan Region of Tavush Province, SBA expanded to the Sisian Region of Syunik Province, another region that has seen violence due to clashes with Azerbaijan, but which has great potential in agriculture, something the project aims to help strengthen.
During 2021, 37 new business owners and developers were assisted through SBA.
All 57 beneficiaries who have been assisted by SBA since its start in 2016 have remained in Armenia and crafted stable lives for themselves.
Small businesses supported in 2021 include a bakery, potable water production, event management, agricultural services, and T-shirt printing and design.
Since it first opened in 2005, Gyumri Information Technology Center, or GTech, has continually promoted the development of programming and technology by giving motivated young professionals the opportunity to gain the IT training they need in their home country in order to compete in a growing sector. The institution has paved the way for IT to lead the way in Armenia by offering access to high-quality skills training, ultimately contributing to the transformation of Gyumri’s economic, educational, and cultural landscape.
While GTech has greatly widened its reach over recent years to give more training opportunities for Armenians throughout the country, a major step forward happened in 2021 when FAR’s IT education institution expanded its function and purpose and opened a new branch in Yerevan.
With the potential to forge even more partnerships with various companies which are based in the capital, GTech Yerevan offers tailored education programs for students that feed into internship programs and eventual employment at selected companies. GTech Yerevan will continue to further the mission of bolstering human resources for companies in the capital and beyond.
After conducting an exclusively online approach during the COVID pandemic, GTech was able to resume many of its courses to in-person settings during 2021. Other courses, after having shown a high rate of success in reaching those in more remote regions of the country continued to operate in a remote capacity. More than 5,000 students—from teens to war veterans—across Armenia are now enrolled in GTech’s courses.
In 2021, 200 young people graduated from GTech’s 8-month and 6-month intensive training programs, bringing the total number of GTech graduates to roughly 5,000.
The Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) completed its eighth year in 2021, continuing its work to break the endemic cycle of poverty in the Berd Region of Armenia’s Tavush Province. BCPP’s multi-faceted, multi-sectoral approach combines economic activity, health, education, psychosocial support, and infrastructure initiatives to help communities and individuals transform themselves.
In 2021 the BCPP office Building in Berd was inaugurated as the Edward and Janet Mardigian Humanitarian Center, honoring the benefactors of this life transformative program of FAR. It has become a home for this incredible initiative and it will continue to be a center from where the needs of the people of Tavush will be served for years to come.
The team at FAR’s Berd Office remained steadfast despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the Artsakh War. Tavush sits along the border with Azerbaijan which has subjected its people to intermittent violence over the years. Many displaced from Artsakh who have also come to Berd have strained the region’s already-weak infrastructure.
For those financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Artsakh, emergency relief assistance, such as clothing and hygiene kits, were given to 523 beneficiaries during 2021.
Public health initiatives were also carried out, including the organization of a series of lectures for primary healthcare specialists about COVID-19 who are based in Berd, and a conference on children’s cognitive development.
In addition, several trainings were held for young mothers on COVID-19 as well as other pediatric diseases, such as respiratory infections, and nutrition-related issues like stunting.
In addition, 61 community health trainings on COVID-19 and first aid also took place over the past year.
Through the Start Your Business training project 42 participants were selected to receive financial literacy and business plan development trainings, and financial support with which they could kick-start their business ideas. Fifteen additional families from the Berd Region received combined grant and loan packages in 2021 with which they could start up or sustain their small businesses.
Many farmers in the Berd region received fertilizers to cultivate their lentils, beans and other crops and help prevent food insecurity. Fruit seedlings were also distributed to selected families.
With family stabilization a focus of the project, the FAR Mardigian Children’s Support Center in Berd helps at-risk children to overcome obstacles like shyness, behavioral and low self-image problems through various games and therapies. More than 140 children received support through the center’s services in 2021. The center also provides psychosocial rehabilitation services to children and their families who are encountering difficult life situations and 121 beneficiary families were assisted through such support during 2021.
Committees comprised of representatives from healthcare, education, local administration, and law enforcement were also established in five different communities. They aim to help to contribute to early identification of children and families in need of intervention. Members of such committees also received training on child protection methods and the elimination of exclusion and discrimination toward vulnerable children and families.
School rehabilitation is another important component of the project, and more than 20 schools in Tavush were improved through BCPP during 2021. Highlights include the renovation of the Verin Tsaghkavan Village School whose technology classroom was also completely refurbished, enabling the school’s students to be able to learn woodcarving and sewing skills as part of the school’s vocational training program. The technology classrooms at the Kayan Hovhannes Hintlyan School and Navur Village School were also renovated and equipped with necessary furniture and appliances.
The physics and chemistry labs at Azatamut School, which hadn’t been renovated since the Soviet era, were also redone. Where previously experiments weren’t possible, science teachers can now encourage hands-on learning through practical experiments and by testing hypotheses, ideally bolstering students’ enthusiastic appreciation of science.
FAR enabled Choratan Village School to finally install a gas heating system. Wood burning stoves had previously been the only source of heating for students. The new system makes all the difference for the children who can now learn in a comfortable, safe, and healthier environment.
FAR also constructed a sports field at Aygedzor Village School where children can now train, hold sports tournaments, and organize games. All the schools were provided with necessary sports supplies.
Water pipelines were constructed and sanitary units were fully renovated at Paravaqar and Tavush village schools as well.
Boosting productivity and providing an outlet for young peoples’ creativity has been a focal point for FAR’s BCPP project since its start in 2013. For the past several years, BCPP’s 16 different hobby groups has helped about 350 kids in a region of Armenia that has few recreational outlets.
Small events like a contest held for the children who love embroidery and drawing had 50 participants from villages throughout Armenia’s impoverished Berd Region. The “My Colors” contest exhibition were available for public viewing at FAR’s Berd Office.
In healthcare, 28 medical clinics and hospitals in the Berd Region (those supported by BCPP) were stocked with equipment like oxygen concentrators, thermometers, otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes, and medical exam tables. A new shelter was constructed and furnished in Berd Medical Center as well.
As part of BCPP’s Child Health and Nutrition Project, an additional 315 children in the Ijevan Region of Tavush Province were able to start to receive healthy and nutritious meals on a daily basis. They join the already 900 children from Berd who benefit from this program, bringing the total to 1,215 children.
Both BCPP and Support for Artsakh’s Displaced also aim to improve healthcare by empowering local medical personnel through professional development and training opportunities, in addition to those geared toward community members. Recent trainings focused on COVID-19, the role of play in alleviating children’s anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases, just to name a few. And more than 40 trainings for community members have also been carried out in Sisian and Berd since early September.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
By the Numbers
entrepreneurs received support to establish or grow their small businesses (SBA)
community health trainings on COVID-19 and first aid also took place over the past year. (BCPP)
schools improved (BCPP)
students graduate from intensive IT training programs (GTech)
individuals benefitted from emergency relief assistance, such as clothing and hygiene kits. (BCPP)
participants received support to kickstart their business ideas (BCPP)
children and 121 beneficiary families benefitted from the Mardigian Children’s Support Center (BCPP)
medical clinics and hospitals supported with supplies and resource provision (BCPP)
children benefitted from nutritious, wholesome meals at daycare (BCPP)
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Carl & Linda Bazarian
Dennis & Linda Tarzian
Harold & Josephine Gulamerian Foundation
Howard & Catherine Atesian
Robert Semonian Trust
SJS Charitable Trust