WHY ARE ARMENIANS LEAVING ARMENIA?

Gyumri Fell 26 Six Years Ago but Still on Its Knees

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The DEPOP Team Turns Attention to “Depop2Repop” Repopulation Project for Gyumri and Shirak Region

More than a quarter century has passed since the earthquake in Armenia’s Gyumri. On December 7, Gyumri marked the 26th anniversary of the earthquake – 26 years of pain, hunger, homelessness, emigration, suffering and the hope that one day their children will have a home and emerge from homelessness and poverty.

During the past 26 years compassionate Armenian diasporans, foreign charity organizations, individuals, international and local organizations have donated in an attempt to build Gyumri, but where are the results?

What do we have in Gyumri today?

Today there are 4,300 homeless families in Gyumri who live in the same shelters and makeshift houses they went into after the earthquake 26 years ago, and only 430 families were recognized as eligible for apartments. Today, according to official information, almost half of the population in Gyumri lives in poverty, which means every second child goes to bed hungry. In 26 years since the earthquake Gyumri has lost 150 thousand people (most of them have migrated to Russia). Emigration trends from Gyumri are still high. Every day buses full of people leave for Russia from Gyumri.

The people of Gyumri hope that the diaspora will join the homeland in an effort to help Gyumri and show that they are not forgotten, and that there is hope. The DEPOP team believes this is an urgent need for Gyumri and the Shirak region.

A recent study funded by the Kololian Foundation of Toronto (www.depop.am) looked into the reasons behind emigration, where the worst indicators were observed in Gyumri. The research report, entitled “The Depopulation Crisis in Armenia,” was first presented on October 8, 2013, in a conference with the United Nations Population Fund in Yerevan. In 2014 the report was presented to Armenian communities in Beirut, Paris, Toronto, New York and Los Angeles. As the speaking tour and the report have generated a lot of interest in the diaspora, people are asking what’s next, what can be done to help Armenia.

The Proposed ‘Depop2Repop’ Rebuilding Project for Gyumri and the Shirak Region

Vahan Kololian, the founder and Chairman of the DEPOP Research Project, has stated, “Let’s turn our energies to rebuilding Gyumri and the entire Shirak Region.” He went on to say that this time it must be done better and smarter. Kamo Mailyan, the Coordinating Director of DEPOP and the new project added, “It is our intention to invite a group of action-oriented Armenian civil leaders and organizations from the Diaspora to compose a Steering Committee to establish a multi-disciplined approach to rebuilding Gyumri:
• Urban renewal
• Attracting industry, with a focus on fabrics, wool and textiles
• Rejuvenating cultural sites
• Increasing tourism.”

The Steering Committee will be composed of 5 individuals or organizations who will each commit resources, starting with $US25,000 each of Phase I, which is the planning phase for 2015. The rebuilding itself is expected to be a long term, multi-phase project requiring significant implementation and tens of millions of dollars.

The first $25,000 was committed by Vahan Kololian. Further, on Vahan’s invitation, Mr. Ruben Vardanyan, the Russian-Armenian Philanthropist, has also committed to the first phase with a $25,000 commitment and to assist the Steering Committee.

“The importance of proper planning with the people of Gyumri involved cannot be over-emphasized. We cannot make the mistakes of the past. We must have a very well planned multi-disciplinary approach,” stated Mr. Mailyan.

“We hope to announce 3 additional participants very soon,” said Vahan Kololian.

To join and follow the REPOP initiative contact Kamo Mailyan at: kamomailyan@yahoo.com

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