My name is Armen Hovsepyan, I was born and raised in Gyumri. I received my education both in Gyumri, Armenia and in the US. I returned from the States so that I could use my knowledge in my hometown…
Thus began the biographical sketch Armen sent us here at Adventures in Preservation. Armen has been working for several years to bring volunteers to Gyumri to help with building conservation projects. It, like so much else in the country, has taken an extremely long time to bring the project to fruition, but in 2016, there are a host of opportunities to work with Armen and the people of Gyumri.
The city of Gyumri suffers from high unemployment; for youth, the rate is 52%, the second highest in the country. Unemployment is causing both brain drain and migration; there is little on offer. Compounding that issue is a critical housing shortage. More than 25 years after an earthquake devastated the city, a great many people have still not returned to permanent housing.
In addition to his work to protect and preserve Gyumri’s architectural heritage, Armen is working with Gyumri Project Hope, a non-profit organization. Over 25,000 people lost their houses in the 1988 earthquake and through Project Hope Armen is working to raise awareness of the many problems the people of Gyumri are facing. Armen was four months old when the earthquake struck and considers it his “obligation to at least try to improve conditions in Gyumri”.
An extremely hard worker, Armen is also the founder of Travel Gyumri, a tour company which provides the latest information on Gyumri and Shirak province tours, events, maps and other information for foreign visitors.
Working with EarthWatch was key to raising his awareness and knowledge about Gyumri and what’s known as indigenous Gyumri architecture. The city and province have many endangered monuments. Armen’s goal is to be able to collect enough funds to be able to rescue at least one of these masterpieces of historic Armenian heritage.
Armen uses photography as a tool to show the world the real beauty of Armenian architecture, landscape and culture. Currently, he is working on a series of photos that tell the story of Gyumri people who have been living in temporary shelters for 27 years, revealing their everyday struggle of survival. Armen himself is among them, living in what is essentially a container, with no heat to ward off the freezing winter weather. He has high hopes of moving to an apartment in the coming year. He’d love to live in a historic building.