WFD currently works in eight rural communities of Shirak region (Northern Armenia).
In collaboration with local municipalities and community members we try to find solutions for most urgent problems. Most of the problems are common for all communities: There is lack or absence of potable water, roads are destroyed, public transport does not reach them, unemployment is high, and so are poverty, labor migration, migration of youth.
Some of these problems must be addressed by local and state authorities, such as rebuilding the roads. However, there are also problems, which can be solved through mobilising local resources. This is where WFD tries to support the communities and municipalities.
Community Centres in Shirak region
Since 2008 WFD has been working towards mobilising and developing rural communities in Shirak region. At WFD we believe that only healthy and united communities can promote development locally.
We work with community members of all age and social groups, and also collaborate with the local municipality. Therefore, we established five community centres in villages of Shirak region.
Over time, the community centres have become meeting places and venues for locally-organised events. This helped community members to spend more time together, young people started volunteering for community causes and the older generation had a place to spend their afternoons and evenings.
One series of events WFD facilitated for the communities were special sessions on employment and social services, to which ecologists, psychologists and state representatives were invited. Other events brought the communities together with family doctors and a specialist on gender issues.
Based on this model, three additional community centers were established in 2011. Active voluntary groups were formed in each community, consisting mostly young people who want to devote some of their time in the service of the community.
As a result, in most of the communities summer camps were organised for schoolchildren. In these, young volunteers work with children of different age groups, and try to make summer holidays more interesting and educative for them. They also organise different cultural and educational programs throughout the year.
Community Mobilisation in Shirak region
Our goal is to empower communities so that people will be able to raise their problems and actively participate in solving these problems. Together with the communities and local municipalities, we agreed to develop alternative strategic plans involving the entire community. Active groups of volunteers helped to carry out a survey among about 80% of the population in each community.
Based on focus group meetings and discussions, WFD and active volunteering groups started developing the strategic plans for each community.
People have prioritized community problems and suggested possible solutions for each. Some problems can be solved by using local resources, such as cultural and extra curriculum activities for children, others require an internal support, and the rest need to be addressed by state institutions.
Capacity Building and Addressing Problems
It is known that if the community stands as one, it can solve any problem.
One common problem for all communities is that people have lack of faith that they can change their lives. This was one of the challenges WFD had to face. We envision communities as confident and competent enough to face their problems without waiting for someone to come and bring a solution.
To do so, a series of project proposal writing seminars were organised in each community, helping participant to obtain funding for their ideas to drive change. Participants worked in groups and addressed what they see as priority local problems, developed it into a project. A few projects have already received support and are up and running.
At WFD we are doing our best to match interested organisations or individuals with rural communities that need support.