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FROM FRANCE, THE COUNTRY OF LOVE, TO ARMENIA, LAND OF LIFE (VIDEO MATERIAL)

UGAB Jeunes (AGBU Youth of France) kicked off its first Arménie, Terre de Vie (Armenia, Land of Life) project in 2011, when 32 Armenian and French young adults volunteered their time and service to construction, education, environment and health programs in various regions of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh (NKR). Two years later, after careful planning and intensive fundraising, UGAB Jeunes was ready to return to Armenia and undertake a similar mission. Twenty-seven volunteers from France and Belgium, ages 18-30, renovated part of the AGBU and Holy Etchmiadzin Malatya Children’s Center in Yerevan between August 1-30. The building was rundown, and a major wing had no gas or water. Advisor on Culture and Cooperation Issues at the French Embassy in Armenia, Mr. Jean-Michel Kasbarian, who visited the Malatya Center accompanied by AGBU Armenia Director Arpi Vartanian and Deputy Director Hovig Eordekian, stressed the importance of the project and Diasporan involvement in building Armenia’s future. “I am truly happy and impressed to see these French youths implementing a charity project here in Armenia,” said Kasbarian. Not all the volunteers were Armenian. Andy Marie-Luce, one of the French volunteers, remarked, “This program was exciting, exhausting and satisfying. It has been an unforgettable experience. We wanted to give something special to the children with our work and gifts, but ultimately, I think we were rewarded with so much more from this experience.” Apart from their work at the Malatya Center, the group carried out other projects. With a new academic school year just around the corner, UGAB Jeunes provided 60 children from the Youth Center with school supplies and clothing. In addition, 300 dental hygiene kits were distributed. Dentists among the group demonstrated proper dental hygiene care techniques to the children. The French and Belgian volunteers took some time to travel around Armenia and Artsakh. For many, Artsakh was a revelation. Unbeknownst to them, they had an exciting surprise awaiting them in Karabakh: Syrian-Armenians are benefiting from the two-storey Berdzor Youth Center, which UGAB Jeunes renovated in 2011. Today, it serves as a shelter for families who experienced the terrors of war and repatriated from Syria. In Stepanakert, the group donated literature, in French, to the Stepanakert Francophone Center. Finally, to increase social awareness about nature protection, the volunteers prepared and hung billboards, written in four languages, at Lake Sevan and near the Vaskenian Seminary. These posters urge people to care about their environment, not litter, and warn of the consequences of polluting Lake Sevan.

 

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