EREO Progress Report

Five years ago, an appeal came from Timothy Straight founder of Homeland Development Initiative Foundation. Equal Rights Equal Opportunity needed a permanent space instead of bouncing around temporary offices for a group of activists with a vision for a better life for the disabled in Lori province of Armenia.

A group of generous souls took it upon themselves to make it a reality. Continue reading “EREO Progress Report”

A day with Homeland Development Initiative Foundation

Ten days in Armenia – We jumped on the opportunity to accompany Timothy Straight head of Homeland Development Initiative Foundation – HDIF to travel to Tavush province to visit some of the vulnerable villages bordering Azerbaijan and see some of the thrilling economic and social initiatives that are helping these communities. Click here for more.

Continue reading “A day with Homeland Development Initiative Foundation”

September 2022 Travel Notes

Friday September 30 Sunny low 80s – Landed Yerevan at 12:35 AM past midnight after 24 hours on the road.  Bought a couple of sim cards. Aram picked us ap on time at the airport and were at Holiday Express Yerevan at 1:30 AM looking forward to crash.  No jet lag but exhausted.

10 AM we are at ACBA bank to add Shirley to our USD and AMD accounts.  Not possible without closing the accounts and opening new ones.  They instead created a full Power of Attorney (POA) for Shirley that would give her full rights to the account.  At 12 we took a suitcase full of alterations to a tailor near Ani Grand Hotel.

Dinner with Tim Straight discussing the situation in Armenia and his foundation HDIF.  Armenia is getting an onslaught of Russians mostly young, educated, and skilled.  They are bringing IT skills – positive development.  Not enough housing and accommodation –worrying signs of inflation.  Azeri aggression land grab into Armenian territory couple of weeks ago very worrying.   Talked about visiting TUMO in a Box an initiative started by Tim that we are supporting by funding the cost of an instructor.  Always inspiring to Tim. 

Saturday October 1, 2022 Sunny low 80s  –  My cousin Shushan and her husband Sam invited us for lunch. Met a group of interesting contemporaries.  Armenians from the diaspora 65+ in age who have had successful careers/businesses and are now investing in Armenia.  Sam’s firs project was buying a defunct clothing manufacturing operation 8 years ago upgraded the equipment and started manufacturing leisure clothing and uniforms under other brands . Challenges:  Cannot get younger workers, average age 50+  younger workers unwilling to operate sowing machines and related work.  Barely breaking even, they need to have 35 workers to break even.  Another initiative that he started a couple of years ago is developing an apartment complex – more info here

Sunday October 2, 2022 Sunny mid 80s – Called Nazo Gerboian to find out the status of title ownership turnover to Ardem, and also discuss the terms of the loan that we are making to Nazo.  He indicated that plans are in place to meet with the notary on Tuesday.  Having no plans for Monday we decided to plan a Monday tour.

Dinner with Nazareth and Mariam Seferian at IlVino.  First time for Shirley to meet the Seferians.  Nazareth is an independent consultant in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility on the board of a number of nonprofits.  He spends most of his free time translating Armenian Literary works to English – most resent Gomidas Letters.  Later in the evening joined by Sam and Shushan

Monday October 3, 2022 Sunny mid 80s – Got up early to visit Noratus cemetery, a medieval cemetery with many early khachkars, Selim pass, the Orbelian caravansary built in the 1300s.

Tuesday October 4, 2022 – Sunny low 80s’ – 38,000 USD loan to Nazo for 8 years were abandoned out of fear of getting in trouble with US sanctions since Nazo’s bank ArmBusinessBank and America Bank in Armenia would be under US sanctions.  Instead we gave him a little over 2,000 USD for his help managing our property.

Went to the notary in the morning and transferred our share of the property to Ardem.  He is now the sole owner of the property, but he will continue to make his loan payments.

Wednesday October 5, 2022 – Sunny low 80s.  Took the metro from Hraparak to Sasountsi Davit to visit Impact Hub Yerevan  and Homeland Development Initiative Foundation . .  Tim gave us a brief tour before parting ways.

Thursday October 6, 2022 – Sunny. Ten days in Armenia – We jumped on the opportunity to accompany Timothy Straight head of Homeland Development Initiative Foundation – HDIF to travel to Tavush province to visit some of the vulnerable villages bordering Azerbaijan and see some of the thrilling economic and social initiatives that are helping these communities.

Tim had received sewing machines that needed to be delivered to Aygepar.  Sewing machines delivered, we stopped in the village of Tavush to visit the new Bed and Breakfast facility to foster more ecotourism in the area.

Our next stop was Berd Women’s Resource Center Foundation (BWRCF).  Director Anahit Badalian gave us a tour to update Tim on the construction of the B&B on the third floor of the Bears and Berries building that has been her focus since she got funding to purchase the property in 2019.

Last stop was the TUMO in a Box in Berd which Hayg Foundation is participating in funding the salary of its instructor.

Friday October 7, 2022 Sunny low 80s – Spent day with Mariam Movsisyan.  Visited Sergey Parajanov museum, lunch at Lavache, then to the Soviet Museum in Yerevan.  Discussed Mariam’s new initiative MamaForum an NGO that provides a forum for progressive moms. (2) MamaForum / ՄամաՖորում | Facebook

Saturday October 8, 2022 Sunny low 80s. – Spent morning replying to messages, booking hotel for 2 days after our return to Yerevan from Sorrento.  Dinner at Zaitouna with Sam and cousin Shushan Salibian to find out about Sam’s construction project.   Lorida Group LLC, whose founder-director is Sam.  Turns out he has been involved in philanthropy in Armenia since they have been spending time in Armenia summers for 8 years.  He is the developer of Shushi Palace Complex . It consists of eight buildings.  A major project with about 900 units.  Project for first time home buyers – to provide affordable housing to young families.  Families with combined age of 70 years (husband and wife) for maximum property value of about $65,000 get a tax credit.  Their interest payment is refunded.   Primarily to spur home ownership of first-time home buyers.

Sunday October 9 2022. Rained all day. Dropped one luggage with Nazo. Shahe went for a walk to Vernissage, home early, early dinner at Tumanian Khinkali ( 0 stars – not recommended).  To bed early to catch a 4:30 AM flight to Sorrento for a week of R&R until October 16.

Yerevan October 17 -18

Monday October 17 Sunny – Aram drove us to Ardems apartment at Vahram Papazyan Street, Building 11/1, Apartment 34, Yerevan to check the apartment.  We then went to Sushi-Palace to inspect the project that Sam Salibian has embarked on – an 8 building complex located at (Նազարբեկյան 44/13) Nazarbekian 44/13, Yerevan 0097, Armenia.

Tuesday October 18 Rain – Mostly recuperated to get ready for travel next day.

Wednesday October 19 Early Morning Travel Day to the US


How we lent 4400 Dollars to a Taxi Driver I Just Met

On Foundation business in Armenia, few days after arriving in Yerevan, I met up with Tim Sraight and Kirk Wallace for dinner.  Tim has been in Armenia for 21 years, besides being the Finnish Honorary Consul in Armenia, and Norwegian Honorary Consul in Armenia Knight of the First Order he runs Homeland Development Initiative Foundation one of the largest if not the largest social enterprises in Armenia. Kirk is developing hydroponic farming in Armenia – a soilless farming system that relies on nutrients from fish waste.  During dinner, I mentioned that I am working through the details to loan a taxi driver who I just met 4,000 dollars. Their reaction was immediate. Their body language was clear: “You are an idiot; you need to learn the ways of the old Soviet republic”.   I am writing this blog, to which the final chapter will not be written for some time.  Although not advised, Tim suggests that if I go through with this, to at least make sure that there is a notarized contract.  I am writing this because I could not coherently explain why I am going through making $4400 available to a complete stranger.  Continue reading “How we lent 4400 Dollars to a Taxi Driver I Just Met”

EREO Progress Report

Back in August 2018 we started a fundraising campaign to help Equal Rights Equal Opportunities NGO secure a permanent facility in Vanadzor, Armenia.

Soon after the start of the campaign, George Keushgerian joined with a generous proposal to purchase a property and lease it to EREO for 10 years at zero dollars.  We closed the campaign when we reached our goal ($15,000).

Given our sad history of corruption and poor governance, George’s only advice to me was to make sure that we have some level of control how the facility is used and how the money is spent.  I am happy to tell you that the project has been a great success – beyond our dreams because of the leadership of its president Anush Aslanyan and board member Anush Arakelyan – the highly dedicated duo.

The funds we raised were placed in two accounts $10,000 in an 9% (9% is the going rate in Armenia) Certificate of Deposit that will mature in another year, and $5,000 in a checking account for renovations.

A couple of days ago we received a full account of their progress.  They used the $5,000 for carpeting, building modification to make it handicap accessible, security cameras. Doors, and thermal windows and heating system were donated by AYO.  The $10,000 CD generated $980 of interest so far.

The link below is the video that Anush sent us, I put some titles and posted it on you tube for you.  Please take a moment to watch it – inspiring.