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DEVELOPING COMMUNITY THROUGH JOINING EFFORTS: Renovation of Community Center at Komitas 49/4 in Yerevan

“Due to this program we learnt that together we can create a real change!” These are the words of Shahen Zakharov, one of the 190 residents of Communal Center at Komitas 49/4 in Yerevan, who has been living here for more than 15 years. The building was built in 1973 and had never undergone any renovation since then. The state of the building was completely deteriorated. The roof was leaking causing dampness of the upper floors’ apartments, the doors and windows were either broken or stolen, the corridors and stairwells were in terrible condition, and the drinking water and sewage systems were collapsed.
The vast majority of the residents (157 out of 190) of the Communal Center fled from Baku to Yerevan in 1989-91 during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict escalation. They constituted one of the most vulnerable groups of the country’s population and were unable 0to meet even their basic living needs. They frequently applied to various state and humanitarian structures for relief but no results were achieved.
In summer 2004 Mission Armenia NGO started the “Communal Center Rehabilitation” project funded by the U.S. State Department Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration through Save the Children/Armenia. It aimed to improve the living conditions of the children, women and their families through sustainable and quality renovation of the building and promote the community development. The objectives of the project were streamlined with the PRSP which prioritized improvement of living conditions of the people residing at temporary dwellings, as well as their involvement in that work.
This project was clearly one of the most successful projects due to the enthusiasm of the community through which they acquired certain ownership of the building as a whole. Sarge Cheever, Regional Representative of US DOS BPRM
Along with eight other buildings initially selected for the project, in March 2005 the Communal Center at Komitas 49/4 was included in the project.
According to the program objectives, a Community Action Group comprised of 7 persons was formed out of the community active members to organize and manage the project activities. 28 vulnerable residents were provided with temporary jobs by participating in renovation works which started in April. As it was envisaged by the project the community made its significant contribution to the work by reimbursing more than 18 per cent of the project cost.
As a result, the roof of the building was fully replaced, corridors, stairwells, doors and windows were renovated and painted, electric wirings, water and sewage pipes were installed.
The project definitely succeeded due to the community’s active participation and joint efforts to assist the works carried out. The renovation performed played vital role in the lives of the people changing their attitude towards future. The dwellers of the upper floors finally could repair the ceilings and walls of their apartments and get rid of the dampness that seemed to be eternal before the renovation of the roof. Now the residents could also safely use the drinking water and sewage system.
“I have participated in the renovation of the forth and fifth floors, – said Shahen, – and I have got salary for it. By the way, did you see the color of the walls in corridors? It is me, who chose it. This work enhanced the community consolidation and I am very happy that I made my contribution to the work.”
While addressing to the residents of the renovated building, Sarge Cheever, the Regional Representative of the U.S. State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said: “It is your project, and it was implemented due to your joint efforts. The most important thing is that you have successfully worked to realize it and you have done it for yourselves.” Mr. Cheever also stated that this project was clearly one of the most successful projects due to the enthusiasm of the community through which they acquired certain ownership of the building as a whole.
“The success of this project was that the renovation activities were performed very quickly and very well due to the active participation of the community”, – said Irina Saghoyan, Save the Children Armenia Country Representative.
“There is no other way than joining community efforts to develop the community and achieve good results”, – said Hripsime Kirakosyan, President of Mission Armenia. The words of the U.S. Embassy, Save the Children and Mission Armenia officials and the beneficiary come to prove the fact that the community cooperation and joint efforts are the main prerequisites for the community development.