Just north of Arakadz (the highest mountain in Armenia), Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia and the regional center in the Shirak Highland. With a rich history, Gyumri is considered the main cultural and educational center of northern Armenia.
The AMAA began its work in the city of Gyumri in 1989 by offering direct assistance to survivors whose lives were shattered by the earthquake that fateful night in December 1988. Twenty-eight years ago, thousands upon thousands of lives were forever changed. AMAA’s vision at the time was to be an effective spiritual, cultural and social center where community members could find hope and practical assistance to overcome their financial, medical and social problems. Services for children such as Christian Education, tutorial and educational programs began in 1992 in the then newly opened Center. The Armenian Evangelical community in Gyumri consisted of a few hundred members. Their backgrounds diverse, representing cross-section of the town’s population, mostly comprised of representatives of the poor class, but also professionals such as dentists, mathematicians, teachers, actors, painters and builders.
The current Center was bought in 1999 and formed by renovating and connecting two unfinished apartments on the ground floor of a residential building. As years passed and the AMAA’s programs grew in-line with the original vision for the community, the building could not keep pace with the needs and began to show its wear and tear quite rapidly. Church services are held in a basement sanctuary.
After a long-waited ground breaking ceremony, construction has begun and is well underway to build a new Church and Community Center, honoring and building upon the work of our predecessors. The new Church and Center will serve a vibrant church community of near 300 people that anticipated to continue transmitting Christian hope and assistance that the people of Gyumri so desperately need. According to statistics, Gyumri has the highest population living in poverty in Armenia. The poor live on less than $90 per month. It has been reported that 51.1% of the children of Shirak live in extreme poverty. They live on less than $55 per month.
The new AMAA Church and Community Center in Gyumri will promote and propagate the rich cultural heritage of the Armenian people among children and youth. The complex is anticipated to provides a facility where young and old can socialize in a warm and safe Christian atmosphere, play sports, play indoor games, socialize and hold group activities on a daily basis.
Over 200 children, youth and young adults will participate in weekly gatherings, as part of the Christian Education program, where they sing gospel songs, learn Bible stories, and hear about God’s commands on love, honesty and justice. The Biblical teaching is carried out using creative forms of skits, discussions and debates.
Among arts & crafts classes, painting, music, theater and the school of dance (the Escada dance group) teachers at the Center will continue to identify and teach talented children and youth, helping them to develop their gifts and gain recognition through performance. Near 35 children and youth currently attend the dance class. The proposed new facilities will enable the AMAA to help 150 children develop their artistic talents. Under the tutelage of professional teachers it will be possible to open a dance school for children from ages 6 to 18 years old.
More than 150 young ladies will learn the skills of table design. Goblin, macrame and carpet classes will enable young girls to study old Armenian carpeting and modern macrame. This group will give its students an opportunity to sell their works in Armenia and abroad. About 100 children and youth will attend these classes twice a week.
The Evangelical Community is not indifferent to the social needs of the population. Specifically through the child sponsorship program, the center will continue to reach out to 300 needy children with financial aid, medical assistance, educational and social services. The Center will continue distributing relief supplies of food and clothing to hundred of needy families, in addition to the Milk Fund program which distributes infant formula those who are unable to nurse.
To help address the high level of unemployment, the Gyumri Center will help the unemployed learn trades to help them earn income through a vocational training center, English language classes, and computer training.
AMAA’s new Church and Community Center consists of two buildings which will house a sanctuary designed to seat near 210 worshippers and designed to hold cultural events such as educational theater and sacred concerts. The auxiliary building will house: social services, office space, classrooms and a social hall. Outside the grounds will include a field, basketball and volleyball courts.
The challenges facing Armenia, including Gyumri, are not able to be overcome by a single organization. It requires a coordinated effort among government, international NGOs, major institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF.
Yet, the AMAA can have a significant impact on the lives of each individual, young and old, each of whom counts.
The new Gyumri Church and Community Center will become a place of pride and joy for many, where people will find the path of truth and the salvation of the soul, where they will receive support, where they will be filled with physical and spiritual warmth. It will give hope and light to those who have lost hope due to the earthquake and the various storms of life.