Under the capable leadership of Leo and Sona Manuelian, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Armenia June 11 to June 22, 2018. In addition, John Kardashian from our St. Leon parish Fair Lawn, New Jersey and ten additional people from the Los Angeles area joined together in finishing a home in a rural village about 30 minutes outside of Yerevan. The tasks included insulation work, concrete mixing and pouring, and plastering. The family of five (two adults and three children) had been living in a metal container (domik) for several years. Getting to know them was an invaluable aspect of this experience.
The contrasts in Armenia are very obvious; the city of Yerevan can now rival any of the cosmopolitan European cities, while a 30-minute ride beyond the city reveals more than 30% of the population living in poverty. Hopefully some of this will improve in the near future.
This was a very special year as we celebrated the 10th Anniversary and the building of the 650th Fuller house in Armenia. Joining us this year was David Snell, the President and co-founder of the Fuller Center for Housing, who flew in from Georgia, USA to recognize, in his words, “the most successful Fuller Center organization worldwide”!
The Fuller Center for Housing Armenia (FCHA) is a non-government charitable organization that supports community development in the Republic of Armenia by assisting in building and renovating simple, decent and affordable housing. FCHA provides long term, interest-free mortgage loans to low-income families. The monthly repayments flow into the Revolving Fund and are used to help more families, thereby providing a financial foundation for sustainable community development.
During our two-week stay, several work breaks gave us an opportunity to see the many cultural and religious sites for which Armenia is famous. After our work day, we often dined in one of the many great restaurants in Yerevan. We happened to be in the city during the Soccer World Cup. The cafes and restaurants were in full swing, and the matches were televised in Republic Square. Large groups of foreign tourists from Germany, Russia, England, etc. were enthusiastically cheering for their home teams.
While our involvement may seem like a “drop in the bucket”, it is life-altering for the family whose living conditions have drastically improved. I encourage everyone to consider joining a future Fuller project – it is a truly rewarding experience. Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to Leo and Sona for organizing and leading countless building trips!
~Ara Hourdajian, GB volunteer, 2018