Development Initiatives Underway to Transform Khachik Village Into Income-Generating Tourist Destination
After 18 months of preparation and planning, the AGBU Young Professionals (YP) Network recently completed the development and implementation of its first pan-YP project to build a park in the rural village of Khachik, Armenia. Flexing their global muscle for the very first time, ten YP Groups and YP Partner organizations from four continents participated, including YP Buenos Aires, YP Brazil, YP Greater New York, YP Los Angeles, YP Marseille, YP Northern California, YP Philadelphia, YP Toronto, YP Yerevan, and HAIK in Frankfurt, Germany, in cooperation with the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development (CARD).
With international cooperation as a main priority, the project was initiated in July 2009 during the AGBU Young Professionals Biennial Assembly held in Chicago over AGBU FOCUS weekend. Worldwide YP representatives concluded that the time had come to pool their resources as a cohesive whole for Armenia. Breaking new ground, the AGBU Young Professionals decided to launch an environmental project which would be conceived, funded, and developed entirely by them. As a result of this initiative, the new park will now provide a green space of beauty and relaxation for the 300 families of Khachik to enjoy; the park is expected to also help attract visitors and tourists, thus providing a future source of income for residents.
With the funds raised by the YP Groups in the diaspora and project implementation in Khachik overseen by YP Yerevan, this unified effort by the YP Network sets an exemplary model that cooperation reaps results to create a more positive future for the people of Armenia. Throughout 2010, several groups organized benefit events dedicated specifically to the project, including YP Northern California’s signature Winter Gala (www.agbusfgala.org), YP Los Angeles’ St. Patrick’s Day Mixer, YP Toronto’s Noir & Blanche Soirée, YP Marseille’s Bio Fair, and HAIK’s Classical Summer Concert.
Imparting the enthusiasm of YP Marseille’s role in the project, Chairwoman Maral Hékimian expressed, “As a member of an international network, getting involved with the pan-YP project was one of YP Marseille’s main goals. We really wanted to organize a benefit event which was in the same spirit as the project in Khachik. As such, we organized our first Bio Fair & Conference in May 2010, which promoted fair trade and sustainable development. We are very happy to see that, today, thanks to our joint efforts, we have managed to develop this park that many families can enjoy and which will allow residents to stay in their village.”
Situated on a high plateau on the Azerbaijani border, Khachik is a rural village of 300 families in the Vayots Dzor region of Armenia, located 20 kilometers from the town of Areni and approximately 2.5 hours from Yerevan. The villagers’ principal income is derived from the sale of their produce to intermediaries, who then resell the goods in the Yerevan markets at three times the price.
In addition to the new park, there have been other development initiatives underway in Khachik recently. Providing its residents much-needed exposure and a connection to the outside world, YP Yerevan, in cooperation with CARD, built an Information Center in Khachik’s village hall in April 2010, furnishing it with computers and Internet access. Less than a kilometer outside Khachik, a 9th-century church is also being renovated by the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO.
In tandem with the other development initiatives, the hope is that the creation of the park will help improve the village’s economic viability and sustainability, as Khachik is viewed as a future income-generating tourist destination. The park will serve as a venue for agricultural festivals, fairs, and events to attract churchgoers, visitors, and tourists, where the villagers can sell their local produce without intermediaries, thus providing a direct source of income. In addition, these initiatives will help contribute towards ensuring the survival and sovereignty of the village’s borders, improving the overall welfare of its residents, and providing an incentive for its young people to remain in Khachik rather than move to Yerevan or emigrate.
Between the 9th-century church and the village, there existed a large abandoned area with a water source and sparse trees. YP Yerevan, CARD, villagers, and workers transformed this desolate area into a green haven for the young and old by planting trees, installing wooden tables and benches, and constructing an open-air kitchen. In April 2010, YP Yerevan broke ground for Khachik’s new park, planting seedlings donated by the Republic of Armenia Nature Protection Ministry. The opening ceremony took place in October 2010.
Thanks to the goodwill and efforts of the AGBU Young Professionals, the new park provides an environment that its 1,000 residents can be proud of, where parents can visit with their children for recreational activities, and where the youth can gather and feel that they have an area to call their own. “I would like to thank all AGBU YPs and every person who participated in implementing this project for Khachik,” said YP Yerevan Vice Chairwoman Anna Karapetyan. “Thanks to your efforts and fundraising, we together accomplished this great project for the youth and adults of Khachik village.”
The development of the new park will have an important impact on the way the residents view their village, helping to modify their attitudes and become more environmentally conscious. The youth of the village have been tasked with maintaining the park and, to this end, two workshops have been delivered to the residents on maintenance of the area and environmental awareness and responsibility. Future development of the park is also expected. For more information, pictures, and news coverage about the project, please visit www.agbu.org/ypsgogreen.
Established in 1906, AGBU (www.agbu.org) is the world's largest non-profit Armenian organization. Headquartered in New York City, AGBU preserves and promotes the Armenian identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs, annually touching the lives of some 500,000 Armenians around the world.
For more information about AGBU and its worldwide programs, please visit www.agbu.org