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Interview with Karine Mkrtchyan

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I'm Karine Mkrtchyan from Caritas Armenia. I'm the PR officer, and now we are in Ashotsk. This the the city that was the regional center of the Ashotsk region and after the old developments in Armenia, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the earthquake etc. now it looks like a simple village. Abandoned and ruined and with people who are more depressed and hopeless. Onnik: Do you think this is typical for most villages in the Shirak region? Karine: Yes, yes, it's typical. Everywhere you will see abandoned places, especially public spaces. They are ruined. There are no facilities, a lack of drinking water, irrigation, lack of organized activities and people are usually on their own to solve their own problems. Onnik: Earlier we were talking about Gyumri, and we have official statistics for the population, but many people think that it's a lot lower. Do you agree that there's been a lot of people leaving this region? Karine: Yes, of course. First of all, the earthquake... We had a lot of loss of life during the earthquake and then massive migration which stopped in the late 1990s and then started again in the the early 2000 years and there are more people who decide to migrate and do everything to accomplish their dream to live in a better living standard. Onnik: So, you're working for Caritas and you took me around a few of your projects today [to see] some of your beneficiaries. Maybe you could just explain where we went, who we saw, and [give] a general overview of what type of work you're doing in Gyumri and the surrounding region. Karine: Caritas is already for 15 years working for Armenia and we have chosen the poorest regions of Armenia. This is Shirak region, Lori and Gegharkunik and we mainly work with the socially vulnerable population. That is, old people living alone, disabled children's families, children that are deprived of parental care. These were the beneficiaries that we visited today and we saw in what harsh conditions they are living. Their shelters, their income, their vision that is completely absent. They have no hope and they just survive. Onnik: And we also saw some domiks and it's still quite strange, I think, for many people after nearly 21 years that there are still people living in domiks... temporary containers, temporary shacks. How many people do you think are living in such a situation? Karine: There are estimations that there are 4,000 people living in domiks and this is natural because not all the families were provided with houses during 20 years and it's natural that those families grew. They had children who grew up and married. Many people received flats, but there was part of the population that had to continue living in temporary containers. Onnik: I've come to Gyumri a lot but I always come on these short visits so I never get a really true picture of it. Do you think that there has been some development in Gyumri and the region over the past 20 years? How would you describe what has happened? Karine: There was both development and decreasing of the situation at the same time. We have to look at the population itself. If we talk about old people living alone, there can not be any improvement for them. If we talk about young people who had some amount of money left behind from their parents, they were able to construct some buildings that they thought they would hire (rent) or start small businesses. So from the first side there is development in Gyumri. There is construction. There is hope that something will go to a positive solution. But when we look at the marginalized part of the population, there isn't any change for them -- only worse. Onnik: How big in percentage terms is the marginalized part of the population? Karine: The part that is in a very bad situation is around 30 or 40 percent. Onnik: That's quite a lot. Karine: Yes, there is a very small middle layer and maybe 10 percent that is really in a good condition. Onnik: And you're from Gyumri yourself? Karine: Yes. Onnik: And they used to say that Gyumri before the earthquake, before the collapse of the Soviet Union... used to be... well, some people have described it as the best city, the nicest city, the most relaxing city, the most artistic city in Armenia. Do you have hopes that those days can come back once again? Karine: Unfortunately, no because now Yerevan is very attractive for promising young people who are artistic, who are positive, who are professionals, so there is also migration within the country. I am in Gyumri for only personal reasons. If not those reasons I know that many people would have left Gyumri. Onnik: Is there anything you'd like to say about Caritas, about Shirak, about whatever you want? Karine: Caritas is one of the NGOs that is working to empower the individual. We strive for building a dignified, living standard for a person and we really hope that this can be done by these people by themselves. We believe that empowering people is the best that we can do for this region and for Armenia. Onnik: Thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 6 minutes and 46 seconds
Country: Armenia
Language: English
Views: 514
Posted by: onewmphoto on Nov 27, 2009

Public Relations Officer, Caritas Armenia, Gyumri, Shirak region, Armenia. If anyone wants to help translate this into other languages please contact [email protected]

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