In Armenia, there are so many people who need assistance. Some of the reasons are due to the governance. Some are due to cultural reasons. Some are luck. There are many reasons, and they all need to be addressed – but it’s not easy of course.
Giving someone money though virtually never fixes the problem. You can buy someone a house and a car, you can pay for an eye surgery or heart surgery or badly needed medicine, but almost without fail, the next day, the next week, the next month, the need is back. It’s not fixed. Only a job, an income can fix it. Well creating a job is much more difficult than giving someone cash, so it’s a rare thing for this to happen. One organization I’ve learned about is creating jobs and livelihoods in Kashatagh/Berdzor/Lachin for years. The group is called MENK, and I heard of them through a settler in those regions who is a great scholar and I believe honest.
It seems like MENK has been running a very successful project now for about a decade, with their relatively limited funds. They started out giving farm animals to settlers, who then had to pass on the babies to other families. For the last few years though, they’ve been having really great success with introducing settlers to beekeeping. These regions have vast fields of wildflowers, and mostly organic fields at that. The honey produced is a high value product, and high demand. It sells itself. They only work with settlers who have a neighbor who will mentor them in beekeeping, to make sure the project has a good chance of success, and they loan the settler the beehives and bees for five years, during which time they earn enough money to pay back the loan.
The hives are not cheap at $100 each with bees, the sheets that go in them, etc, and each family needs more than a couple in order to make it worth their time and produce a good return. But so far they’ve never had anyone default on these beekeeping loans. Unfortunately the MENK website and materials are only in Armenian so far, but the program is quite simple. You or anyone can give MENK a loan (which can be wire transferred to MENK, or picked up in Armenia or Karabakh), and then they in turn loan it to the settlers they have on a waiting list. You can visit the families yourself if you are so inclined. Each year the family will give you a jar of honey, and after 5 years they will return the full loan to MENK who will give it back to you. Or you can agree to an extension if necessary. I think recipients take the whole process much more seriously as a loan that needs to be repaid, than as a handout. So really, this seems like a pretty great program… and this is the time of year bee colonies are dividing, so if it sounds good to you get in touch with them.
Here are some families that MENK has helped with hives – you can see how badly they needed it, even if you can’t read Armenian…