How an Army of Bears Is Saving a Town
The following excerpt comes from the The Armenian Weekly in Fresno, California and was originally published on June 27, 2012.
“In the town of Berd in northern Armenia’s Tavush province, a group of women knit little arms and legs, strawberry-shaped torsos, round heads, and half-moon ears and snouts. When all the pieces are stuffed and attached, plump little bears stare back and smile. These are the Berd Bears, a small army of cuddly pals that could change the lives of their creators.
When Arkansas native John Hart moved to Berd as a Peace Corps volunteer two years ago, his mission was to help develop the information technology (IT) in the region. He began working at Berd IT, a small company with a handful of employees. His job description constituted fixing computers and teaching planning skills. As time went on, he veered towards working with women’s and youth centers. Upon his return from the women’s centers in Gapan, Meghri, and Goris, he approached his co-worker, Anahit Badalyan, with an idea. ‘I said, I think perhaps instead of trying to do women’s projects under an IT banner, maybe we should start our own, Berd’s women’s organization—our own women’s resource center,’ he told me. Within around three months, in February 2011, the Berd Women’s Resource Center Foundation (BWRCF) was established.
Tapping into their knitting skills made sense in a number of ways. First, the budget to teach them new skills was lacking. Secondly, knitting allowed the women to work at home. It adapted to their lifestyle.”
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