Bridging and empowering stories

Bridging and empowering stories

Bridge for CSOs

Every great initiative once was a dream lucky enough to receive support and have someone to stand for it. Bridge for CSOs programme became this support for numerous projects, creating a “bridge” between great ideas and the Armenian diaspora all around the world.

Text : Margarit Mirzoyan

European union for Armenia

This EU-funded three-year programme was launched in 2016 and is implemented by Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and Eurasia Partnership Foundation. The core idea behind its operations is to empower the civil society in Armenia via strengthening their capacities and providing means for their further development and sustainability. AGBU is the largest network connecting the diaspora with Armenia, so the next important aspect of the programme is to bring the large impact of the Armenians abroad to their homeland.

The Bridge for CSOs has several components including the pro-bono consulting by leading specialists from diaspora to local CSO managers, Goodwill Ambassador Initiative for promoting and supporting these CSOs, and the educational component, in the face of Nonprofit Management Certificate program, designed to enhance the professional knowledge among civil society representatives. The revamped www.Together4Armenia.am website was launched in the frame of this project, acting as a platform connecting local projects with high-level professionals from all around the world. Another important component of the project is the grant provision for social enterprises and civil society related initiatives. Half of the funded projects focuses on social entrepreneurship and the other half – on social innovation. The concept of social entrepreneurship is quite new in our reality, however in the period when the civil society becomes one of the most important pieces of the Armenian puzzle, the programme will strive to turn into a platform for the further development of this trend in the country.

Here are some of the prominent stories funded by the Bridge for CSOs programme which turned into real success cases.

 

“Tonir Wedding Village” implemented by Carota NGO

Songs, games, dances, traditional food and massive celebrations for “7 days and 7 nights”. Located in the small Vaghatin village in the mountainous region of Syunik, Tonir Wedding Village aims to bring these fascinating ceremonies and rituals of Armenian weddings back to our reality. Sirarpi and Hayk – the founders of the project, wanted to have a traditional Armenian wedding but they couldn’t find an agency to help them with this extraordinary request. However, they rolled up their sleeves and decided to organize their dream wedding by their own means. It took them around two years to find the location, examine the field and have various meetings with ethnographers and other relevant specialists. Eventually, they ended up having a very beautiful 3-day wedding for 300 people – everyone dressed up in an Armenian taraz, playing Armenian traditional wedding games – with all the corresponding rituals, food, and other experiences. Their wedding turned into a real fairy tale and the organizers decided to continue the project and bring this fairy tale into the lives of other loving couples. In 2018, the NGO received funding from the Bride of CSOs programme for further development of their project. Part of the funding is to be allocated to revive around 30 traditional Armenian tarazes. The project will have a full branding, a catalog of services and a website will be launched in the near future. The team also got a chance to participate in a world-famous Exotic Wedding Planning Conference in Italy, which enabled them to become a part of this huge network of wedding planners, get acquainted with the giants of the field, and introduce Armenia to them.

A ceremony at “Tonir Wedding Village”

A ceremony at “Tonir Wedding Village”

 

“From Plastic to Plastic” implemented by Clean Goris NGO

Goris city located near Vararak River, just like any city in the world – is liable to various pollutions and at some point, the plastic waste has become a major issue in the city. In 2017, a group of community activists established the Clean Goris nonprofit organization. The initiative had a goal to contribute to the solution of environmental issues in the Syunik region, to collect plastic waste and recycle it to create new products. The NGO also understood the importance of educating the younger generation in order to instill love towards nature and for that purpose they organized various initiatives for children. To address the issue of plastic waste more globally, the NGO established a social enterprise – From Plastic to Plastic, where they recycle the waste and create new plastic bags. The workers at the production site are people living in poverty, which automatically provide a solution to another social problem in the city – the lack of job opportunities. The NGO also addresses the issue of unemployment by purchasing plastic waste from these people. In 2018, the NGO received funding in the frame of Bridge for CSOs programme. The major part of these resources went on the purchase of new equipment, delivering it to the production site at Goris and training their employees. The new equipment enabled the NGO to produce 5 types of cellophane in different colors and with various prints: for example, the logo of the purchasing company. Overall, the production doubled allowing them to purchase more plastic waste from vulnerable families. The organization bought around 1500 kg mixed and ordinary plastic waste from 46 families in previous months. Additionally, a one-day workshop was organized on the topic of what is a plastic waste in Goris and in nearby areas in order to raise awareness about the importance of such a project. The social enterprise has also provided bags and stationery for children from several families in Goris and a competition was organized on the topic of nature for local school children.

Clean Goris NGO’s “From Plastic to Plastic” project

Clean Goris NGO’s “From Plastic to Plastic” project

 

“Social Project for Special Children” implemented by Source Foundation

Being a mother of a special child herself, Marina Parazyan – the founder of Source foundation could clearly understand the challenges of children with disabilities and their parents and decided to establish a foundation which would support those special children and their families in their hard journey. Since the days of its establishment, the foundation has implemented a large number of projects all around the country. Starting from rebuilding institutions and adjusting them to the needs of children with disabilities and ending with organizing various therapies for those children or training individual tutors who can accompany them even at home. The diligent work of the foundation initiated a huge trust towards their activities and many leading institutions provided them with the means to implement their mission. In 2017, the foundation decided to go one step further and establish “The Source House” development and day care center. Today the center provides skill development, rehabilitation and care services to over 100 children with moderate to severe disabilities. Later that year, the social project of the Source Foundation was launched with the establishment of sewing manufactory. Here, the mothers of children attending the center are taught how to sew and prepare special adaptations for the right positioning and fixation of the child’s limbs, head and neck. Besides the production of the necessary physiotherapeutic furniture, they also create specialized soft furniture for the exercises and everyday use at the center. Those colorful products are distributed in various centers around the country working with children with special needs. Some parts of the items are allocated to the children who stay at home due to their severe conditions. The center also established a furniture manufactory, where the fathers of those children work to create all the necessary items adjusted to the needs of children with special needs. When the foundation became a sub-grantee of the Bridge for CSOs programme, it enabled them to enter a new level and enhance the quality of their production. They purchased two brand new machine tools for wood. In addition, Mrs. Parazyan participated in the nonprofit management certified programme established by the mutual efforts of the AUA Extensions and the Bridge for CSOs programme. This opportunity allowed her to make the purpose and steps of her project more concrete and to enhance her skills as a manager.