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Dancer, goldsmith or pilot: Armenian youngster vows to stay in native village


Varazdat Harutyunian
Varazdat Harutyunian

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan


On May 27, Children of Armenia Fund’s (COAF) SMART Center will open at the crossroad of Debet and Dsegh communities in Lori marz, Armenia. It will offer alternative education and activities free of charge to all residents of Lori: children, young people, the middle-aged and the elderly. 


The project will include a children’s development center for the youngest Lori dwellers and various clubs for teens and the youth, while people of older generations will get the opportunity to learn about renewable energy, organic agriculture and resource development. 


COAF SMART Center is set to form a new environment that will help children in rural areas to develop dreams and realize them within their native communities.


The heroes of Mediamax’s new project are the children from Lori marz, who tell about their goals and dreams. They share their expectations from SMART Center and thoughts on what this kind of institution can change in the lives of village kids.

 

Calling every stray dog we meet by the name, Varazdat heads home to take the clothes for the dancing class and hurries back to the school. His younger brother Aren joins him halfway. Their father is sitting by their house, 1.5-year-old Alen in his lap, and 4-month-old Aleks is in the crib. He’s covered with a thick blanket up to his eyes, a bottle of milk is sitting next to him. Finally, Vahe completes the count of this family of seven.

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Varazdat is the oldest among five children. He’s 12 and helps his brothers of school age with the homework, plays with the younger siblings, and on occasions, assists his parents with work in the house and the garden.

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

“Vahe helps more at home. Varazdat is busy with his classes. He has a computer now, so we can tell him nothing. I’m forced to hide the internet modem from him,” laughs the boy’s mother, Armine.

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

They joke and take no offence in the scarcity of Varazdat’s efforts at housework – he has so many interests and activities. The boy joins every workshop and club, be that in his native Dzoragyugh or neighboring communities, just to see if they are interesting.

 

“For example, I used to study robotics a month ago, but I didn’t like it and left the club.”

 

Instead, Varazdat attends English and Turkish classes, dancing and drama clubs. He says a lot has changed since geography teacher Mr Arzumanyan (from Teach For Armenia) arrived in their village.

 

Envelopes of “Acts of kindness” by Mr. Arzumanyan

 

By the initiative of the new teacher, the school opened a drama club that performed Armenian writer Hovhannes Tomanyan’s fairytales: “Barekendan”, “The fool”, “The death of Kikos” and “Lazy Houri”.

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Varazdat has never been to theatre or performed in a play before the drama club. Members of the club gather after school in the hall of the village administration building and rehearse, prompting each other and filling in for the absent kids. When all is ready, Dzoragyugh residents receive invitations. The first time that happened, many of them were surprised to see their children and pupils on the stage, acting with confidence and calmness. Later the young actors kicked off a tour. Firstly, they went to the neighboring Debet community, and then visited Etchmiadzin’s Machanents Theatre. In October, Dzoragyugh youth theatre went to Yerevan for Nran Hatik Festival with support of the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF).

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

“The stage and the audience were bigger there than in our village, so we were a bit nervous. I’m not shy of people, but I don’t like to be on stage for long, I don’t like being watched that much,” Varazdat says. 

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

Whether he likes it or not, but the reasons to perform aren’t late in coming. He has been in the dancing class for 4 years. “He can’t live without dancing. Everyone and their mother say, oh, he dances so well! But I’m struggling to find the time and go see for myself,” says Armine.

 

When asked if he is the best dancer in the class, Varazdat replies modestly, “I don’t know. That’s what people say.” However, he admits to loving dancing above all other activities and hobbies: “I find myself in the dance.” While we talk, he notices suddenly that his friends are gone. Varazdat asks the time, realizes the dancing class has started 15 minutes ago, and rushes to the school.

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

For the past month, Varazdat’s schedule features English classes as well, which COAF organizes in the neighboring village of Vahagni. 

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

“I had difficulties with English at school. I used to call my cousin, who is fluent in English, and ask her to translate the exercises. That’s why I decided I had to go to the English class. The lessons pass as a game, so it’s interesting. I speak better Russian than English now, but I think it will be the opposite in time,” Varazdat observes. 

 

The three-wing SMART Center building is clearly visible from Dzoragyugh. When COAF just started the construction, Dzoragyugh went through the same talks as many other communities about the purpose of the unusual building. Then kids were invited to have a look at the center, and upon returning home, they gladly “enlightened” the village residents.

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

“It will be a two-storey building. The ground floor will host dancing and drama clubs, and I don’t know for sure about the second, but we were told it will be something interesting. There’s a hotel too, where teachers from Yerevan will live.

 

They said they’d provide us a bus to take us home after classes. SMART Center will give us a chance to attend more clubs and learn more things than at school,” Varazdat shares what he’ has seen and heard about the center.

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

He took part in tree planting with his friends at SMART a few weeks earlier. They were recently invited to the center to meet COAF founder, U.S.-based entrepreneur Garo Armen.

 

“He told us about the important things in life, for example, helping others. If I could, I would donate to COAF to renovate schools. But I can help now too by assisting in renovation.”

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

COAF SMART Center will open on May 27, and Varazdat and his friends will select clubs and classes they prefer.

 

He has yet to decide on his future occupation. The options are many: dancer, goldsmith, pilot. Varazdat does not really know how he could work as any of the three in Dzoragyugh, but he has no intention to leave the village. “I love Dzoragyugh the best,” he says. Varazdat’s plan is simple: get education in Yerevan, serve in the army, and come back home. 

Photo: Mediamax/Vaghinak Ghazaryan

The educational programs of Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) reserve an important place for arts and crafts. More than 600 pupils in Armenian marzes attend COAF’s extracurricular clubs (carpet making and carpet weaving, carpentry, decorative design, dressmaking, dhol (Armenian traditional drum), drama, Armenian and national dancing, painting, ethnography, media studies, football, volleyball, etc). Many of these clubs will be available free of charge at SMART Center as well.

 

Lusine Gharibyan


Photos by Vaghinak Ghazaryan (for Mediamax)

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