by Nane Vardanyan
The golden rays of the sun give a bright shade to the meadows and bluish green mountains far away. The villagers sip a cup of coffee as roosters’ Cock-A-Doodle-Doo breaks the early morning tranquility getting everyone in the mood to work.
If you find beauty in the little things, you will appreciate the way mornings start in Dzoragyugh village, a nature-lover’s paradise located in the Lori region of Armenia. Here you cannot get enough of the chilly fresh air — the best medicine in the entire universe.
This compact isolated village with around 250 population — where everyone knows each other — is situated far from the main highway of the province. As the rocky roads of Dzoragyugh are abandoned and hard to pass, people have to find their own way and go the extra mile to reach their goals.
Tigran Grigoryan, 15, is a COAF SMART Center Alumnus who graduated from the local secondary school in spring 2020. As there are no high schools and colleges in his community, he also had to go the extra mile to continue his education at the high school located in the town of Vanadzor (the capital of the Lori province). It is his envisioned path of obtaining his desired profession of a programmer.
“I walk for 20–30 minutes to reach the main highway from my village on foot and then hitch-hike to get to Vanadzor. Sometimes I’m late for school… depending on when I catch a car to drive me through,” explains Tigran with his humble voice.
“Is there a future for a programmer in your village?” I ask Tigran.
“No,” the firm answer follows with no further explanation…
The road Tigran walks through every single day rings a bell to Suren Harutyunyan, the COAF SMART Agritech Instructor and the former head of Dzoragyugh village. Suren used to take the same hiking journey to attend high school and then college in Vanadzor for six years. He describes the role of a community head as “becoming a father of a big family where you are responsible for everything and everyone.”
The absence of a high school seems one of the most urgent ones to the COAF SMART Center Counselor and Dzoragyugh school teacher Narek Arzumanyan, who has moved to Dzoragyugh from the Armavir region through Teach For Armenia program, and created his own cozy environment in the gorgeous village that has no transportation and gas. The passionate pedagogue knows all 1350 COAF SMART Center students one by one and does the utmost to make sure Dzoragyugh and its nearby communities can have more to offer to their youth.
A few things have been encouraging in Dzoragyugh recently. In 2015, COAF first entered the community with the advent of the School Nutrition program. First, we fully renovated the school cafeteria and established a brushodrome (a tooth-brushing station), ensuring schoolchildren, 1–4 grades, would receive balanced-diet based meals every school day. This program aims at promoting healthy nutrition and proper dental hygiene among the youth at an early age.
We have tried to illuminate the community life in Dzoragyugh not only through our after school education and COAF SMART Center programs, but also in the most direct sense of the word. At the beginning of 2020, COAF implemented a street lighting project in Dzoragyugh, which allowed its villagers to walk through enlightened streets and avoid constant injuries caused because of bumpy roads.
“The people of Dzoragyugh are very united. Let me give you an example — whenever a family prepares for the seasonal harvesting, people make a list of volunteers, who will be willing to help each other,” Narek Arzumanyan continues more optimistically. “Want to train someone on team-building skills — come to Dzoragyugh!”