Hilda Grigorian: Armenia is not about lavish life style in Yerevan

Hilda Grigorian: Armenia is not about lavish life style in Yerevan

Tavoush Area

Community needs assessment in Tavoush
Azad-Hye Special


Armenia Village Operation (AVO) was established in Yerevan in 2005 with a mission to “end extreme poverty in rural Armenia through community development”. AVO in partnership with various private donors and organizations has successfully implemented several projects in rural villages which helped hundreds of families.


It is estimated that out of 937 villages in Armenia, only 12% are functional. Many villages are on the verge of destruction, high poverty and unemployment rates are the grass roots of youth migration. It's time to join forces to SAVE A VILLAGE, create employment and generate a sustainable income for our people.


Interview with Hilda Grigorian, the founder of AVO: 


1- When did you first think about charity and community service in more organized way?
In late 2004, I was hired by an International organization in Washington, D.C. to conduct a needs assessment of rural areas for an upcoming project. After visiting the rural areas, I recognized the need for community development and established an Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Armenia in March 2005.


2- What made you think about Armenia instead of providing service to your own community in Diaspora?
I provided volunteer services to Diaspora community for many years. Armenia is my motherland, I have a great deal of love, passion and compassion for Armenia as well as the fact that our rural areas are in desperate basic living needs.


3- Can you interoduce the work of AVO and its activity sphere?
Armenia Village Operation (AVO) is a registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) as well as a registered non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization in U.S.A. Ever since it's establishment, AVO has built a successful track record in implementing various community development projects with small funding but a major impact to promote a sustainable income for the community members. AVO has renovated kinderagrten, replaced a kindergarten playground, renovated a community center, replaced a broken water pump to provide running water to over 400 people and provided seed money to over 25 families to generate employment and income. AVO's main mission is to reduce poverty through community develoment.


4- How are the funds gathered and how is the spending mechanism decided?
Funds are gathered through fund raising and public awareness of AVO with the dispora and non-diaspora communities. Main source of funding is from private donors. Funds are allocated to projects based on their priority and/or specific request by donor.


5- How has the work of AVO affected your life?
AVO's work has changed my life completely.  I transformed from an  executive to a developer worker. After contribution of 25 years to a private sector without earning self satisfaction, I decided to pursue my passion to help my people and build a better Armenia. AVO has made a tremondous difference in people's lives, community members strive for excellence, youth remain in the villages to build a better community.


6- What do you forsee as the key to reduce poverty? How can Diaspora communities contribute to poverty reduction?
It is a well known factor in International Development that “SUSTAINABILITY” is the key to success and out of poverty trap. Ever since the horrifying earthquake of 1988, Diaspora has contributed millions of dollars in cash and humanatarian services without building a strategy for “sustainability”. Diaspora should  switch its focus from “service” to “sustainability” by providing  technical resources and stop hand outs.  It's about time for our Diaspora community members to unite and teach a man how to fish to feed self for life.


7- Have you been in contact with the Middle East Armenian communities?
AVO is a very small organization with limited funds to reach communities. I have made numerous attempts to reach  Middle East Armenian communities without a success, my attemps were not fruitful. I would encourage Middle East Armenian community members to reach out and promote the work of AVO to others.


8- What are the prospects of your charity work in the future?
AVO will soon start a fund raising campaign through website, media, public and private appearances in diaspora communities in U.S. We are currently working on few projects to submit to international organization for funding.


9- Where do you see AVO five years from now.
I see AVO moving forward with a positive outlook to implement at least 10 projects per year. We do not intend to grow fast and become a large organization. We are a true believer that with a proper strategic planning, we can make a big impact with small funding. Our theme is “community builds community”, we teach sustainability and generate income and employment for people to stay out of poverty.


Hilda Grigorian in Aragatsoten

Hilda Grigorian in Aragatsoten
10- Could you introduce us to your activities in Afghanistan.
I have been working on regular basis in Afghanistan since 2005, mainly working with Small Medium Enterprises (SME) and women owned business owners to assist them with rebuilding their business with business planning and access to finance. I recently completed a short term assignment with UNDP, working on National Joint Youth Programme. I work and live in Afghanistan to be able to continue my personal contribution to AVO and implement projects in rural Armenia.


11- What is your message to Diaspora communities?
Armenia rural areas has suffered a tremendous hardship during the past decades, mainly due to a poor community development which leads to high poverty, high unemployment and migration rate. Our youth are leaving the country to serve other countries with their intelligence and knowledge. It is our obligation as a Diaspora to pull our forces together, unite and build the rural areas by contributing to community developmet, empower youth and women and teach sustainability. On your next visit to Armenia, please spend half a day and drive an hour away from the  magnificient Republic square, shops, restaurants and visit a rural village, talk to people to find out the grass root of poverty, stop by a commuity center and have an open discussion with youth and women, find out how an Armenian survives without a basic living needs. Armenia is not about lavish life style in Yerevan, it's about villages. Do your share… SAVE A VILLAGE.


Read also previous Azad-Hye report on Armenia Village Operation (AVO)


For further information and involvement please contact call Hilda Grigorian, MBA (Ph.D. Candidate) at her e-mail.