19 february, 2015
For the first time the organic certified Armenian products produced with Shen assistance had been presented at the 22nd International Trade Fair for Food and Beverages ProdExpo 2015. Also for the first time a special section on organic food were organized at ProdExpo 2015. Totally 9 organic food producers with 18 products: herbal teas, dried fruit, juices, fresh fruit, honey and the like were presented at Shen umbrella booth.
Though organic food market recently has started developing in Russia the consumer interest towards our products appeared to be significant. Thus based on acquired contacts during Prodexpo 2015, Shen plans to facilitate establishment of new commercial links between wholesale buyers in the Russian markets and Armenian organic food producers.
Community Development and Social Projects
Updated on 22 November, 2014
First activity as a newly established NGO was construction of 17 houses in Stepanakert, Nagorno Karabagh, for refugee Armenians who had narrowly escaped massacre in the Azeri city of Sumgait in 1988. Crisis that followed the collapse of USSR, resulted in impoverishment of many communities. With the support of our international partners we carried out over 350 projects throughout Armenia, with special focus on earthquake stricken areas, villages populated by refuges and remote communities
Wherever we go, the first thing we do is mobilizing communities, helping them to get organized, supporting potential leaders by providing them relevant knowledge and information. Local activistes with the help of Shen field office take an active role in participatory needs assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of the projects as well as their further maintanance and operation. Some of the vibrant Community Action Groups (CAG) become the basis for Community Based Organisations (CBO).
Renovated and equipped multipurpose community centers in Daranak, Nor Yedesia, Torfavan, Avazan, Nrakert and in another 27 villages are operational.
Internet is already available in most of villages of Armenia. Thus it allows the rural population including CAG's to have an access to alternative information. With the support of our partner from business community - Orange Armenia (France Telecom) we bring fast internet to the villages where the community centers with computer learning classes are established.
Integrated Community Development Model
Integrated Community Development (ICD) of a vulnerable community or a group of communities is integration and systemized solution of social, economic, environmental, spiritual issues and imperatives. The inception phase starts with Participatory Rural Appraisal which is carried out with the direct involvement of the whole community. This is followed by convening a General Meeting of the community where a Community Action Group (CAG) is elected. Further, CAG jointly with Shen representatives get down to the development of Community Strategic Plan. This is a critical process which eventually becomes the cornerstone of the community's self-reliance. Implementation of ICD model allows substantial involvement of community members in all planned activities, using the capacity of both the community and the NGO effectively to fulfill the planned projects even in the event of economic crisis.
In 2001 Shen NGO adopted the ICD model and during the past decade it yielded certain tangible results in the target communities selected according to Shen poverty criteria. Projects were implemented in a number of communities located in different marzes of the country, e.g. Lusakn, Aragatsotn marz; Argina and Shenik, Baghramyan region, Armavir marz; Yeghnajur, Shirak marz. Particularly the success stories of Aragats, Aragatsotn marz (Community Development Plan, 2005; CAG's Progress Report 2006; Strategic Plan 2012-2015 at www.aragac.am; Follow-up Report, 2013) and Pambak, Gegharkunik marz (Evaluation Report, 2012) prove the appropriateness of the strategy chosen by Shen.
Thus, we witnessed how it is possible to efficiently utilise the limited resources and achieve sustainability for the welfare of the community. The projects implemented in the aforementioned villages included at least 20% community contribution components.
Most importantly, the application of ICD approach guided the beneficiary communities in the transition from being passive recipients of a service to empowerment and capacity building. After a period of participation, collaborative planning and decision-making the communities get equipped and prepared for the maintenance, sustainability and internal monitoring of the accomplished work. It is of fundamental importance for Shen that these communities have become a model for the neighboring villages. As a result of the project implemented in Aragats Shen NGO in collaboration with the UN FAO developed a draft of Strategy for the sustainable development of mountainous regions of Armenia which was presented to the Government in 2006. Another ICD project aiming at sustainable economic impact is underway in Koti village (Tavush marz) (Strategic Development Plan, 2011), where irrigation water for homestead orchards is already available (Follow-up Report, 2012), access to drinking water is being improved, and other projects of community importance are halfway.
In 2010-2011, as a response to the global economic crisis, the USAID Mission in Armenia has partnered with CHF International, in association with Shen NGO, to implement the 4.5 million USD Small Scale Infrastructure Program (SSIP).The program's objective was to provide emergency employment opportunities through small-scale, labor-intensive infrastructure projects in close collaboration with the Government of Armenia and local organizations and communities. SSIP focused on vulnerable rural communities of Armenia to increase employment through mechanisms focused on leveraging donor resources, maximizing labor content and harmonizing with national development efforts (see SSIP results).
After the independence village kindergartens were given to local authorities who could not manage them because of lack of resources. This brought to closing of kindergartens and further deterioration of the buildings. In many beneficiary villages renovation and operation of kindergartens also allows rural women to get jobs. In the regions where agriculture is more developed or some industries exist women involved can earn as much as men. This means that if women are free of taking care of their children, they can work and double the income of families.
Renovated kindergarten in Sevkar
Shen thinks it important to take care of recreation and education of children from poor families. Since 1999, we established a Children's Recreation Center in Yeghnajour, Shirak marz, that we aim to turn into a summer camp for Armenian children from all over the world. Every year 150 beneficiary children from suburbs of Gyumri and other cities of Shirak marz enjoy fresh air, food and the pleasure of working in the farm. The school building was reconstructed to host the children.
Renovated school building and recreation center in Yeghnajoor.
The youth in many communities has only seasonal work. In order to make healthy and effective use of their spare time Shen builds and renovates village gyms and athletic arenas. As our experience shows this activity changes drastically the whole life of the villages. Another argument in favor of development of gyms and athletic arenas in rural areas is that school children do not have any sport facilities and therefore are deprived of elementary possibilities to enjoy their life. In the communities where Shen develops sport facilities we see positive changes in the mentality of school children. There are students in the beneficiary villages of Argina, Qaraberd and Ptghavan who have already reached outstanding achievements on a national scale.
The schoolchildren of Karaberd, Qeti, Malishka and Marmashen enjoy their newly renovated gyms.
Drinking water is one of the most acute problems of Armenia due to several reasons, one of them being deterioration of the pipelines. Old rusty tubes leak, and the precious spring water does not reach people. Rehabilitating the pipelines and stopping the wastes is one of main directions of Shen's activity.
Drinking water system in Artsni and Pambak. Newly constructed bridge in Ttudjur.
After the earthquake, former Soviet countries stretched out a helping hand to people who suffered. But often, in haste, they omitted some parts or neglected quality of their constructions. In the first two pictures you can see the missing sewage pipes in the trench in the central part of Jajur, the native village of prominant artist Minas Avetissyan in Shirak region and the completed project.
Construction or rehabilitation of rural medical aid posts and equipping them, as well as providing necessery training to nurses has always been the priority.
In 2011 the "Glasses for Armenia" project was initiated and implemented by the French-Armenian Medical Union and with the support of Shen NGO. The beneficiaries of the project were the residents of ten villages in Aragatsotn Marz who are served by the medical ambulatory of village Nerkin Bazmaberd, also, the 15 villages served by the Medical Center of town Talin and the residents of town Talin. The doctors examined initially diagnosed 263 children and provided on the spot special glasses for 225 children. The project did not overlook adults either and 1394 of them were provided with free glasses.
In 2013 the same project was successfully replicated in Vayots Dzor marz where 650 children out of the 1500 who had undergone preliminary medical examination, were re-examined. Professional consultation was provided to 350, and for the 270 patients optical eyeglasses were made on the spot and delivered to them. More than 1200 pairs of glasses were provided to the elderly and 5 persons were advised a surgical intervention.
Already the third time in 2014 the Armenian Medical Union of France (UMAF) organized and implemented "Eye-glasses for Armenia" project. This time it was carried out in Vardenis sub-region. The doctors held double check-ups of initially diagnosed 407 children, for 241 of them eye-glasses were made and provided to them on the site. The project did not pass by the adults, 1469 of which were also provided with eye-glasses.