Helping displaced Armenians through long-term economic solutionsPublished: May 11, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
About three years have passed since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, yet many people remain in a continuous struggle between the past and present. Their fates are more or less similar, as are their concerns for the future.
At ‘People in Need’, we place great emphasis on helping people through humanitarian assistance and development projects. In our work, we seek to help people by bringing some sense of normality to their lives and encouraging them to be independent in planning their futures. Independence and normalization are what our ‘REACT: Relief and Early Recovery for People Affected by Conflict in Armenia’ project is all about. After the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, with funding from European Union humanitarian aid and in cooperation with regional partners, we developed this project to help people affected by the conflict. ‘REACT’ focuses on several components of support: humanitarian assistance, vocational training, child-friendly spaces, and psychological support, to only name a few.
The 18-month-long project has enabled people to get through a harsh winter by providing them with winterization kits and eco-friendly briquettes and subsidizing their winter utility bills. Warmth and comfort are what people need most in winter. To this end, we provided 200 families with winterization kits, another 500 eco-friendly briquettes, and about 4,400 families with utility subsidies. These basic amenities are even more important for those who had been displaced, as they reduce the misery of a bitterly-cold Armenian winter.
Within the ‘REACT’ project, the vocational-educational component is crucial. This component ensures long-term stability and independence from continuous expectations from social services and state bodies. Based on their interests and market demands, the conflict-affected population has benefitted from a wide range of vocational training courses that specialize in different fields; the immediate effect of these courses was the empowerment of participants who can now earn a living for themselves. Promoting independence and self-empowerment are vital to social integration and self-responsibility, which in turn are key to recovery. The fields of interest include—but are not limited to—agriculture, service, finance, education, and technology. In particular beekeeping, culinary and pastry, clothes modelling and sewing, accounting, and web development training courses were in high demand. Over 700 people completed these courses, about 500 of whom received kits that enabled them to put their new-found skills to practical use, and 70 were provided with professional literature. Based on a survey undertaken by our monitoring team, 60% of graduates are now generating income for themselves through new jobs or self-employment; this highlights the fact that the project is an excellent opportunity to adapt to new living conditions and be an integral part of society after displacement.
Another vital part of the project is the operation of Child-Friendly Spaces (CFSs) in Goris—after all, displaced kids are the most vulnerable. In Armenia, displaced children have often suffered great psychological strain from being under constant shelling and in constant danger. The establishment of the CFS in Goris was one way that we could protect them and connect them with their peers. At the CFS, children can talk to a psychologist, share their concerns, express their emotions, and speak out. The CFS allow the children to overcome the side effects of displacement and smile again. Within the ‘REACT’ project, seven CFSs are operated in the Goris region—two in the city of Goris and the remainder in Verishen, Khndzoresk, Karahunj, Vorotan and Shurnukh; together, they host more than 400 local and displaced children. Following on from the REACT project, the generous cooperation of the Goris Municipality has ensured the continuing operation of the child-friendly spaces.
Within the ‘REACT’ project framework, we are focused on integrating displaced people into their new communities through our work in five regions of Armenia: Syunik, Vayots Dzor, Kotayq, Armavir, and Ararat. Together with consortium members ACTED, the Armenian Association of Social Workers (AASW) and Mission Armenia ‘REACT’ has covered all the regions of Armenia. This support was made possible with EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid funding.