KTAK (Կրթական տեխնոլոգիաների ազգային կենտրոն), also known as the "National Center of Educational Technologies" is a program formed by the World Bank "Educational Quality and Relevance" project and the Armenian government's Department of Education and Science. Together they have established an informative online portal for Armenian schools known as the "Armenian Educational Portal".
One of KTAK's programs is the "Mobile Internet Computer Station"(MICS) that sends a travelling computer lab to rural and remote areas around Armenia. MICS provides computer and Internet classes in the back of its truck. The station is connected to a satellite and has 7 laptop computers as well as a flat-screen television for instruction.
Upon the HRI Team's departure, MICS spent two weeks in Akhpradzor and continued to run Computer and Internet courses for the students.
KTAK will be installing Internet connectivity for the Akhpradzor school in December 2011.
To read the full article please click here.
Akhpradzor, Armenia--Nanor Balabanian
From being unable to properly hold a mouse, to setting up a personal gmail account, the children of Akhpradzor have impressed us all with their quick comprehension and utility of their new computers in their school.
It has been an unforgettable few weeks here at Akhprdazor for both our HRI team and the villagers. They had never seen anything like our computers and we had never seen anything like their village life.
The village learned a lot from us, but we really learned a lot more from them. Our cultures were extremely different, but our Armenian blood united us all. On our final night, nearly 25 of us sat at one small table in our host family’s house. That’s when it all started. Genats after Genats (toast after toast). Every villager and intern toasted for the project, for the village, for the Armenian nation, for the diasporans, for the dadigs and babigs, for the beautiful village children, for our nation’s well being, for friendship, for our mothers and fathers, for our relatives.
It was such a unifying moment. I couldn’t feel anything different from anyone around me. Although the woman next to me milked cows, worked in the fields all day, took care of her family and her animals, and didn’t get off her feet from dawn to dusk, there was nothing different between me and her at that moment.
We were one.
Yes, we were all one.
There is no stronger feeling than the feeling of unity, of shared history, or a common ground. It is that commonality that bonds people together. If it weren’t for our shared vision and goal, our project would not have been a success. But because of the collaboration of teams across the world, and because of the shared understanding that what we were doing was going to be beneficial to the village, our project came true.
But what is more, is that, aside from the computer lab and internet access, there was something much bigger that happened. Real influential relationships and bonds were built amongst the students and the interns. The bond that formed between us was much more important than any single computer, or any lab.
These children who literally have nothing but their families, mountains, and animals went crazy over the 2-week-long attention they got from people outside their village. They loved the computers but moreover they just loved the time they could spend with the interns.
Some mornings the kids would bring us the flowers they collected on their way to school. Other mornings they would run towards us as we came to unlock the classroom doors. It was moments like these that touched our lives forever.
Yes, difficulties and health issues came in our way, such as food poisoning, diarrhea, fever, weakness, etc., but nothing could ever stop our team from surviving the village life and finishing what we started.
This is only a beginning towards a bigger project. It is only the start of a new Armenia. Akhpradzor will forever stay in our hearts. We will never forget the forgotten.
We will always find the hidden road.
Akhpradzor - Balabanian Nanor
For several days, the girls in the village have been learning how to use flip cameras to film a movie about their village.
The flip cameras were donated by my wonderful students at National Student Leadership Conference in Washington DC. The NSLC students even created a special video (click here) in Armenian language that we showed to the villagers on our first day. The video was created by the online collaboration of NSLC students from around the world! Inspired by the video, the village girls took on themselves to create a documentary about their life.
During the past week, the girls conducted several interviews, hiked up the mountains to find beautiful sceneries, filmed village traditions, researched the history of their village, and filmed an amazing movie.
Last night the girls showed the video that they had prepared about the village life. It was an amazing moment as they stood up in front of a big crowd and presented what they had prepared with their own hands. It was very empowering and exciting for them. They are so young and so full of ideas. It is wonderful to see the cameras being used for a great purpose. My wish is for them to realize the importance of documenting their stories and history.
The five girls that filmed “Akhpradzori Badmutyuneh” absolutely blew my mind away. They had no experience of filming or editing, yet they produced an Oscar-deserving movie. Each one of these girls is a true gem in this village. I am sure they will in turn empower younger students to follow in their footsteps, and use technology to keep their culture, and not be transformed by it.
August 14, 2011 - Update!
We got invited to appear on "Pari Aravod" on Yerkir Media. The two girls, Hasmik Asoyan and Arpine Ghougassian, are residents of the village. They are also two of the five filmmakers of "Akhpradzori Badmutyuneh." The Story of Akhpradzor. (Coming soon online).
Akhpradzor, Armenia--Nanor Balabanian
Once again we are back in the village after a weekend in Yerevan.
We only left the village for 3 days, but it felt like 3 weeks. We could not wait to get back.
Once again, we drove with our past driver, Armen. Armen is a real hero. There is no road that scares Armen. He is the king of the road. For him, no road is impossible. Armen can find any hidden road. Without him, our initiative would not be the same.
Armen is more than just a driver. He is an entertainer, a server, a friend and a wonderful counselor. During our terrifying ride, he would sing to us and dance (sometimes with no hands on the wheel). When we stopped at Sevan to swim, he insisted on washing our feet with water before we got in the car. Armen has been with us through the roughest and happiest times. Finally, Armen knows how to comfort every passenger, and allows everyone to feel safe despite the horrible circumstances. He even bought us all ice cream and drinks before we got to the village!
We had a wonderful time in the village today. The kids loved the classes and learned many new things.
We had our wonderful Tigran with us from Yerevan. He is our computer seller, but he chose to volunteer a week of his time to come live in the village and teach the kids about computers. The children loved him, and it was great to have him here with us.
Today the villagers killed a goat for us and made "Khorovadz".
The highlight of the day was “Gino-night” aka “movie night.” The kids had never been to a movie theater before, so we thought it would be a great idea if we showed them a movie on a big screen. Thus we gathered the kids at the school at 8:30 at night. They were very excited! They loved the cartoon and couldn’t believe it was showing up on the screen. It was so wonderful to see them so happy.
It has been a long but wonderful day. Thank you Akhpradzor!
Akhpradzor, Armenia--Nanor Balabanian
I didn’t know we could get so used to the village life in just 3 days. I’m already accustomed to their daily routine. I know when the animals wake up and when they return. I know the cow’s daily schedule. I know where to go for a nice walk. I am so used to their bathroom that I don’t even remember what our toilets in the city used to be like. I have already been given a shower in a “dashd” (big metal bin). I love the food so much that it will be hard to eat anywhere else, and the people, I love the people so much that I can’t imagine living without them.
Three little girls, with golden hair and bright blue eyes, took me on a walk yesterday to go help them bring the sheep and cows home. Every morning, a certain shepherd gathers the sheep from a certain neighborhood and takes them to the սարերը (the mountains). These shepherds remind me so much of Psalm 23 – everything has a new meaning in Akhpradzor.
What is SO interesting, is how the shepherd knows every single sheep individually, even though they all look exactly the same. Even more, the children of the village can distinguish which animal is their own.
Around 7:30 every evening, the children go to a certain location by the mountain and wait for the shepherd to bring their sheep.
Yesterday, I went with Lilit, Tamarig, and Nelly – 3 absolutely gorgeous girls – to bring home their sheep. Lilit, who is only 12, knows exactly where her sheep are. She yells “ho ho, ho ho” and her sheep come her way. She then holds her stick and directs them towards their home. She is very protective of her sheep!
We take the sheep to Lilit’s barn, and she tells me to come inside. She says “Nanor, Արի…Come, արի տէս մեր Սուրբը Come see our Saint”
I was surprised to hear this, and did not understand at first. But then I went in the barn and saw their little statue next to the khachkar, located in the barn. I did not ask how and when it got there. But its presence in the house was very important for the children. Lilit told me this was God’s saint that protected their family.
Then Lilit said “Nanor Kooyrig (Sister nanor), ba inchooyes gnaloo mezme (why are you leaving us?)".
Looking into her beautiful blue eyes and her gorgeous smile, I melted away, and did not know what to say.
How did we ever get here? How are we going to leave? Every villager, every house, every animal welcomes us like we’re royalty. Every house we visit there is a story to hear.
Every villager is a hidden hero no one has heard about.
If you could only see how hard they all work you would understand.
If you could only see how happy they keep themselves despite their circumstances, you would understand.
Akhpradzor, Armenia--Nanor Balabanian
In this village, almost every thing that people own, eat, or use is hand made, usually by their own hands.
I am sitting on my bed. My mattress, pillow and blanket are all hand made by the woman who runs this house.
She had to shave her own sheep, clean the wool by whipping it with a special stick, wash and dry it , then sow it in the cloth. After which she carefully had sown a satin piece of cloth and gave the comforter a special design. Yesterday, she told me she wants to send one to me with my name stitched on the comforter when I get married
Starting at age 3, every villager works very hard to help their family survive. From a very young age, the children are sent to the fields with their parents to pick grass, help graze the sheep, milk the cows, etc.
At 15, every girl already knows how to cook for the family, get up early in the morning to milk the cows, and prepare cheese, do all the housework (iron the sheets, etc...), and on top of it study for school.
Yesterday, we got our share of their chores! The girls and I really wanted to see the cows and sheep graze the fields, so we went with a bunch of people to the mountains. It was about a 2 hour hike and we finally got to the top of the mountain where the view was inexplicable. We found an old Khachkar there, as well as a very old ruined city from Lengtimour's time.
After our hike, I came home on a horse (it's funny to hear myself say that). It was an amazing feeling!
Meanwhile, Azad and the girls enjoyed holding eagles with their bare hands. Azad felt that he was in Hogwarts.
Next the children wanted me to try real pure honey so they took me on this hill where the village's famous honey-maker's lives :)
He had about 20-30 beehives which terrified me at first because we had to walk so close to them... When we went to his house, he held his bees with his bare hands, showed us how he makes his honey, and what the conditions should be to do. After which I got to try THE BEST honey I've ever had in my life... made entirely by this man's hands. (I think i now better understand the verse "your love is sweeter than honey"... cause if there is anything sweeter than THAT honey it must be really really special!) :)
After our visit at the honey-makers house, I actually milked a cow!!! Astkhik, Alex and I all really wanted to learn, so we got to milk two different cows!!
Tomorrow we will learn to make cheese too.
Maybe one day I'll sew a mattress and blanket too.
On another note, our HRI camp began yesterday and we had 64 kids register!! We really were not expecting this many kids so at first it seemed overwhelming. But our four classes went well overall. The children LOVE Mrs Nune's Arts and Crafts, Astkhik's and Alex's Science/First Aid/English class, Azad's Sports class, and computer class.
As I learned from NSLC, all the students got name tags that they had to wear every day :)
We get a variety of students that come to our computer classes. Some have experience already, but some others have never touched one before in their lives. Everyone loves paint, pinball, and card games!
Every villager here is an inspiration to me.
Their hard work, determination, persistence, love for family and community, humility and simplicity are qualities that I will always remembers and try to take home with me. My wish is for every person to have this kind of experience...
I encourage you today to get out of your comfort zone... go somewhere where you feel called... and experience a lifestyle that is completely different than yours... yes, it's not always comfortable or easy... but the lessons you will learn from your experiences will stay with you for the rest of your life! Just do it! :D
Akhpradzor, Armenia -- Nanor Balabanian
The fact that I am able to access Internet on this remote village is a complete miracle.
It is 7 in the morning and the villagers are still fast asleep. Every morning we wake up to the smell of animals :) It reminds me a little of Anjar, the village i grew up in.
I am sitting on my bed wearing a "harsi kisheranots" (bride's pijama) that my host family insisted I wear. They apparently bought it 30 years ago from a French vendor. It is obviously very precious to them.
As I look through the window on my right, I see the cows, the sheep, the farms, the barns, and the fields...
On my left, the principal, the dadig (grandma), and the young girl are fast asleep on the floor. We are all sharing one big room with very old walls, covered in rugs.
The dadig sometimes wakes up at night and cries in pain. Her legs are very very fragile and she has no cure for her sickness. It is truly a hard sight to bear.
Next to our room is the family barn. We have several cows and many chickens. There may have been more animals but I couldn't see last night. The reason I was at the barn last night is because that's where i had to go to use the bathroom. Yes, that right. Everything's "organic" here.
In the other house, our 3 good friends Astkhik Hakobyan and her mother, and Alexandra Basmadjian are fast asleep. They are loving this village as much as I am.
Tomorrow we may go learn how to milk cows! We all have a bucket list we want to complete during these 2 weeks: Milk cows, follow the shepherd through the hills, learn how to make yogurt and cheese, water the plants they grow, clean the grass fields, etc...
Life is so different here, but so beautiful!
It is completely silent, except for the voices of nature. Pure. Silent. Calm.
Today will be our first day to run a camp for the children of Akhpradzor. Yesterday they all came to school and met some of our YSIP (Yerevan Summer Internship Program) interns who also ran a 2 hour camp for them. The children went absolutely nuts! From face painting, to English classes, to sports, to medicine.. the kids had many classes to go to. The YSIP interns were amazing and it was sad to see them leave.
Any driver that comes to this village however, vows to never drive here again. The road is so awful that it ruins any automobile that gets here. It is amazing to believe how these villagers can not leave their village for 6 months every year.
Something really interesting happened yesterday. From Yerevan, our wonderful Anna let us borrow the AGBU projector for our classes during these 2 weeks. When I hooked up the projector yesterday to show the students the video that the NSLC students had made, the entire village was absolutely amazed.
I don't think they had ever seen anything on a big screen and they all gathered around, mouths open, staring at the wall! They absolutely loved the video! I also showed them the video we had prepared about their life 2 years ago. The children were so amazed to see themselves on the big screen. In fact most of them got very shy...
Thank you to everyone who contributed towards our video! The principal, teachers, parents and villagers were all in awe, they are very grateful to know that people in the world actually care about them.
Delav (okay) time to start preparing for our camp. Sending you all so much love!!
BAAAAA (as the sheep say it) :)