The COAF SMART Center, well-known by many as our business card, is home to over 1500 youngsters and adults from 27 communities of the Lori region. It is an innovative hub that unites people from dozens of villages that not only benefit from over 20 programs and services but also bring their culture, history, and unique perspectives with themselves.
COAF-supported villages have new residents – people who are still in their homeland but dream of returning to their abandoned homes.
“Are there people who still bake bread in the tonir?”
“There are but very few. Let’s walk a bit. As soon as we smell a scent of freshly baked lavash, we will go towards it.”
The north-western Shirak Province of Armenia is well-known for Gyumri, the second-largest city and the cultural capital of Armenia. The region has over 120 villages, the names of which often reflect various elements of nature or are after a significant someone who was born in that village.
One of the most charming villages of the Lori region sits on the Pambak River. The mountainous Vahagni is home for over 900 people who use cattle breeding and the production of wheat, barley, alfalfa, potatoes, cabbage, and other vegetable crops to make a living.
People who have never been to villages cannot get the real beauty of rural lifestyle: fresh air, homemade food, sounds of the wild, nature that speaks for itself, and skies full of twinkling stars.
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.
There lives an artsy schoolgirl in the smallish village of Aragatsavan. She dreams of Italy, is a big fan of Gyumri, and draws at her home yard almost every day.
Paints, brushes, parts of toy cars, engines, ping pong balls, ice-cream sticks, various chargers, and other weird and incredible items lay on Ashot Harutyunyan’s work desk.
“The most powerful resource Dalarik village has is neither its agricultural lands nor its location. Dalarik is unique for its strong individuals,” says Lilith Hakobyan, the COAF Education Programs Manager and a former inhabitant of Dalarik village of the Armavir Province.
On top of one of the mountains of the Lori region, stands a village called Mets (means big) – Mets Ayrum. During the 1980-90s, it became the new home for newcomers from Gandzak, Baku, Getashen, Kushch, Shahumyan, Erkej, Zhurnabad, and other habitats.
The road to Aragatsavan village school is not an ordinary one. While the majority of roads in Armenia are paved with asphalt, this one is a stone road reconstructed by COAF and the local authorities in 2011.