by Nane Vardanyan
Apricots will soon bloom, paving the way for apple trees. Homeyards will soon smell with enchanting Maytime aromas. Nature is blossoming again, and rural Armenian villagers are going through their spring gardening checklist: cleaning up the yards, cultivating the trees, and sowing seeds.
The haystacks are still luxuriously lined up in the yards of the houses, but they have already shrunk in size. The winter is over. So will soon be the piles.
There is so much hustle and bustle in the villages these days. Arteni, one of our largest beneficiary villages located in the Aragatsotn region of Armenia, is no exception.
We stepped into Arteni in 2011, and we can proudly state that this year marks our 10th spring in this village of over 3000 people.
Take the train from Sasuntsi Davit railway station in Yerevan, and it will take you here in just one and a half hours. Walk through the village, and you’ll meet kind-hearted and hospitable people, often talking in the soft dialect of Gyumri.
Thanks to COAF benefactors, several infrastructures have been improved in Arteni; the community schools, the kindergarten, and the health post have been fully renovated. We have established a playground, a school brushodrome (tooth-brushing station), and a cafeteria, where children from one to four grades receive balanced meals every school day.
The social life of the youth of Arteni has been enriched thanks to our diverse educational programs over the years. Nowadays, students enroll in our English Access, Judo, Aflatoun International (social-financial education), and Engineering programs.
One thing we are sure of — each program somehow breaks stereotypes, changes the mentality in a community for the better, thus becoming a foundation for better habits.
For instance, when visiting Arteni this month (March 2021), the COAF Judo program had been canceled. Instead, our students gathered in their school playground and organized self-training themselves. Self-training — the most adventurous one!
You can also live a real rustic adventure in Arteni by going hiking in Artin mountain, the one this village is famous for. Many hikers pass through the highlands of Artin when heading to Mount Aragats that stands still not far from Arteni village.
“Our villagers are go-getters. They often have difficulties with selling their agricultural products, as due to the weather conditions, we usually get our harvest later than other nearby communities. Still, locals find a way to sell their products and make a living. People strive to contribute to our village’s prosperity,” tells our Alumna Lusvard Arakelyan, one of the symbols of our tenth spring in Arteni.
By taking our English Access program, she got the opportunity to participate in our scholarship and mentoring programs, then graduated from the university and now works in her preferred field.
She visits her hometown on that very same train on the weekends and pays forward to her village just as all our students in Arteni did and will do.