Learning about Kindness, Humility and Strength in Armenia
Unemployment is one of Armenia’s most serious socioeconomic problems, especially among young graduates. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the most difficult youth unemployment situation amongst CIS countries is in Armenia where the youth unemployment rate is currently about 39 percent. Many of Armenia’s brightest young adults, those who Armenia needs most in order to build a better future, are leaving to work and live in countries with better economies and job opportunities.
Unemployment is one of Armenia’s most serious socioeconomic problems, especially among young graduates. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the most difficult youth unemployment situation amongst CIS countries is in Armenia where the youth unemployment rate is currently about 39 percent. Many of Armenia’s brightest young adults, those who Armenia needs most in order to build a better future, are leaving to work and live in countries with better economies and job opportunities. Another great problem is that, even those who have full-time work receive very low salaries. While the city center presents a sparkling façade of Christmas lights and expensive boutiques, most Armenians live with a meager income of $200 per month or less. Over one third of the Armenian population, one million people, lives in poverty. 100,000 of them live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $2 per day.
The Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) strives to help alleviate the basic material needs of the Armenian people and also provides opportunities for economic, educational and spiritual development. In partnership with many different organizations, AMAA provides winter boots, clothing, food, school supplies and gas to many families and especially to children and elderly people. AMAA also has free dental and medical clinics in Yerevan and other cities. They also provide kindergartens and after-school day centers where children get healthy meals, tutoring, counseling and can participate in creative activities. Children, young adults and the elderly have the opportunity to attend AMAA’s wonderful summer camps. In recent years, AMAA has also started joining in efforts to combat youth unemployment through internship programs and leadership and life skill seminars.
Working with AMAA has been an amazing spiritual and educational experience for me because the organization works so closely with the Armenian people. It is not far off, merely sending money and clothes. The beneficiaries are visited by AMAA’s social workers at their homes and many are also closely involved with the church community. The children in the child sponsorship department are followed closely over their entire childhood until they come of age.
My work has mainly been to help in everything connected with English. I lead an after-school English club for students at AMAA’s elementary school. I also teach night classes for young adults. I write articles for AMAA’s magazine and help with reports and translations. I also had the chance to visit the homes of some of the children from the child sponsorship program and then write the film script for a fundraising video for the program. One very interesting aspect of the work has been reading and editing the letters that are written between Armenian children and their American sponsors. I learn so much about the lives and feelings of the children.
I encourage everyone to take some time to read about the incredible history of this country. It was the first state to declare Christianity as its national religion and its history is rich and ancient. Despite centuries of persecution for their faith, including the 1915 Genocide, war with Azerbaijan, a devastating earthquake, and the economic catastrophe which followed the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Armenian people have always held tightly to their faith and proclaimed it boldly. Despite the extreme poverty, every family finds a way to welcome you into their home with great warmth and hospitality. They find tea and treats to set out. They invite you to stay and prepare a place for you. I am thankful to God for the kindness, humility and strength that my Armenian friends and family have shown me. May God increase those qualities in all of us.
Gabrielle Worley serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA).