Peace of mind amidst the shelling: life on the borderline
by Nane Vardanyan
“We are used to hearing the sound of shelling,” calmly says the 17-year-old Laura Yesyan who lives in the borderline Aygehovit village of the Tavush region. Since the Nagorno-Karabakh War, people are used to living with the tension on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. No day goes by without thinking of their safety before working in their fields or when close to the borderline. The danger might be physically near, but the spirit of their motherland soil and the strength of the Armenian Army is even closer.
For the past week, Azerbaijan has deliberately been shelling civilian infrastructures of the borderline villages of the Tavush region: houses, a kindergarten in Aygepar village, a mask factory that had a critical role in the times of the pandemic. “This time, the shelling was more massive than usual. Though naturally, people are somewhat anxious, they are confident of our soldiers and the military strength of our army,” says Laura, who has assumed an important responsibility these days — spreading the word of the situation in the Tavush region.
Laura is a COAF English Access Alumna who has just been accepted to the Faculty of European Languages and Communication at Yerevan State University. Her improved English not only helped her pursue higher education in English but also disseminate trustworthy information about the current situation in the Tavush region. She is involved in a team that translates reliable news sources about the conflict into different languages. In the endless flow of fake news, the youth of Tavush has formed another army that fights in another zone, the zone of the information war.
No matter where they live, all children deserve to grow up in a safe and prosperous environment, have access to quality education, healthcare services, and social life. “After the April War in 2016, we saw an urgent need in fostering sustainable development in the borderline villages of the Tavush region,” says Anahit Hakobyan, the Village Programs Manager at COAF. To date, we have implemented 15 infrastructure improvements in the villages of Archis, Ptghavan, Berdavan, Vazashen, Zorakan, Koti, and Aygehovit. Infrastructures include health facilities where COAF doctors provide free health screenings throughout the year, school brushodromes, and cafeterias, where schoolchildren take care of their dental hygiene and receive free balanced meals every day.
Our infrastructure renovations create long-term advancement opportunities both for the youth and the community members of the Tavush region by offering innovative programs like engineering, math, and the English Access program, implemented in partnership with the US Embassy in Armenia.
COAF launched the project of SMART Rooms as part of the SMART Initiative to transform the villages of Armenia by leveraging technology and education. We have established 3 SMART Rooms in Koti, Aygehovit, and Vazashen villages, which were somewhat isolated from the world before.
Nowadays, they have a high-speed internet connection, heating system, and technological devices that serve for school and other educational programs like Startup Club Armenia. The people of Tavush also connect with the world through events like the Hour of Coding, a worldwide event organized by Microsoft Innovation Center, Microsoft Armenia, and COAF, and was held at COAF SMART Rooms in the border villages of Koti and Aygehovit on December 9, 2017. The event brought coding knowledge to more than 100 rural kids.
Strengthening borderline villages of Armenia has always been a priority for us. Together, we can create new development opportunities so that our villagers can stand still on their land, live, create, and prosper in a safe environment. You can support our programs in borderline villages of Armenia by using the link to donate.