PIN’s CEO and co-founder visits ArmeniaPublished: Aug 25, 2021 Reading time: 5 minutes
People in Need (PIN) first arrived in Armenia as part of the humanitarian response to the devastating Spitak earthquake in 1988, before the organisation was even officially registered. In 2003, the PIN Armenia office was established to support rural tourism, civic education, youth empowerment, the integration of migrants, and job creation in Armenia. Today, the Armenian mission employs about 50 local specialists out of offices in Yerevan, Gyumri, and Goris, and runs both development and humanitarian projects. PIN itself has grown to include teams in over 30 countries, with more than 2,000 employees and volunteers. In July 2021, Simon Panek, CEO and co-founder of PIN, arrived in Armenia to tour PIN’s ongoing work in the country.
After the conflict began in Nagorno-Krabakh in September 2020, PIN launched an emergency response for those displaced by the unrest. With support from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, PIN began providing hygiene kits, beds, and bedding to displaced families living in the Syunik, Vayots Dzor, Armavir, and Ararat regions of Armenia, responding to the needs of approximately 10,000 beneficiaries.
PIN also worked with medical centres and shelters. A total of 45 institutions, including 36 health care facilities and 9 shelters throughout eight regions and Yerevan have received COVID-19 prevention packages and aid as part of the project. During his visit, Panek met beneficiaries in Goris and Armavir. In an Armavir shelter, Panek heard the stories of people displaced from their homes. They were unsure about their futures, wondering whether they would need to stay in shelters forever, or if they would find other places to live.
As part of PIN’s response, 4,200 households and 500 families received utility payments and heating briquettes for the winter season thanks to European Union Humanitarian Aid. In addition, PIN is supporting seven child-friendly spaces (CFS) which provide psychological and educational services and entertainment to 450 displaced and local children and their parents in the town of Goris and the villages of Hartashen, Verishen, Qarahunj, Vorotan, and Khndzoresk. USAID-funded CFSs are a huge help to parents and provide an opportunity for children to deal with their stress, play with their peers, and learn and share skills, rather than being isolated in their homes.
The Legends Trail brings new opportunities to the Syunik Region
Three years of joint efforts between the European Union, People in Need (PIN), the non-governmental organisation ARK Ecological, and other partners and volunteers, have led to the creation of the Legends Trail, a new touristic route to the south of Armenia. Simon Panek, CEO and co-founder of PIN, hiked several segments of the trail in the Syunik Region during a recent visit to Armenia. This region offers tourists beautiful scenery, hiking, an opportunity to sample local food, and historical treasures.
The Legends Trail is part of the Transcaucasian Trail originating in the north of Georgia. In Syunik, it provides new opportunities for regional tourism development. More than 30 individuals or initiatives have received financial support to improve or establish new tourism offerings along the trail.
Panek met with high-level representatives from the Republic of Armenia and multiple donors to discuss the impacts of PIN projects on different sectors. He placed particular emphasis on efforts to build up the civil society sector, and projects aimed at job creation.
Creating sustainable jobs and skills sets in Armenia
In 2018, People in Need (PIN), together with its partners, implemented the two-year “EU4Shirak: Wool for Jobs” Pilot Regional Development Project (PRDP). The aim of this initiative, funded by the European Union and the Government of Armenia, was to develop a wool value chain through the establishment of the Amasia Wool Factory in the Shirak Region.
PIN and its partners − the Women's Development "Resource Center" Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Shirak Region, and the Amasia Municipality− established the Amasia Wool Factory closed joint-stock company (CJSC) under the leadership of Karen Gomtsyan, CEO and investor, leading the project to successful completion and ensuring the sustainability of wool value chain jobs.
Simon Panek, CEO and co-founder of PIN, visited the factory on a recent trip to Armenia and thanked Vache Terteryan, the Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, Jemma Harutyunyan, the Mayor of Amasia, PIN’s partners, and Karen Gomtsyan for their joint efforts to make the project a success and ensure its sustainability. Panek says, “This is great example of how non-governmental organisations should work: implementing successful, sustainable projects.”
Panek also met with representatives from the Women’s Development Recourse Centre Foundation, a local civil society organisation and project partner. They discussed the strategic partnership between PIN and the foundation for the development of the wool value chain, as well as the potential for future projects.
In addition to developing the wool value chain, PIN is implementing a vocational education project in the textile and agro sectors in the Shirak Region with the support of the European Union. PIN is helping four Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions develop new short- and long-term courses with worked-based learning (WBL) approaches to contribute to a skilled and competitive workforce. The team is also cooperating with the business sector to ensure a smooth transition from education to employment.
Panek met with management and students from two of the partner TVETs− the Amasia Craftsman State School, and Artik State College− to discuss the challenges they face with the implementation of new courses and cooperation with the business sector, as well as the successes they have achieved.
Supporting civil society organisations in Armenia
People in Need (PIN) is working closely with civil society organizations (CSOs) in Armenia to understand the needs of Armenians and help vulnerable populations. Within the “COVID-19 Solidarity Programme,” PIN in Armenia supports 17 CSOs with the delivery of services and aid for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The team is providing support with education, psychology, and socioeconomic issues. It is also supporting those displaced by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
During a recent meeting between NGOs including the Armavir Development Centre, Pahapan, Armenian Progressive Youth, and With You, as well as the Teach for Armenia and Ayb educational foundations, members shared their experiences with the transition from education to employment.
Field visit to Armavir region, where PIN is supporting the Armavir Development Centre with TVET education under the EU-funded “COVID19 Solidarity Programme”.
In Armenia, PIN is implementing the “Civil Society Actors as Drivers of Change in South Caucasus and Moldova” project to support CSOs in developing their missions, visions, and strategies. As part of the project, the CSOs are also receiving modest amounts of financial support to implement their advocacy campaigns. There are 15 CSOs taking part in the project.