Bringing the World to Artsakh

Update posted by Stephanie Havens On Jul 27, 2018

"Classes were very interesting in meaning and study method. The method gives us the opportunity to study the language without using English-Armenian vocabularies. In the beginning I was confused that the teacher doesn't know Armenian, and I thought, ”How can we understand each other?”, but Stephanie said that it is good that she doesn't know Armenian, and she was right. I can say that it is a very effective method and the teacher's explanations are very understandable. I feel that my English has become better. I have begun to understand the language and speak better. Thank you Stephanie and all your friends for helping us to improve our English and for giving us Philosophy. Thank you very much. I will come to your next classes in the next year with pleasure."

Gayane Ishkanyan

Intermediate English Student

Summer of 2018

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Update posted by Stephanie Havens On Jun 20, 2018

After months of planning, organizing, and anticipating, we returned at last to Artsakh to begin again our annual educational initiative lead by the Christians In Need Foundation (CINF). Building upon the foundations of last year, we prepared to open five courses; two in general English language skills, two in specialized English language skills, and one in logic and ethics. As is always the case in Artsakh, we were welcomed immediately with warmth and generosity. There are always two beauties that astound me about Artsakh: the beauty of their land and the beauty of their people.

In mid-March, when our President of CINF, Prof. Siobhan Nash-Marshall visited Stepanakert to give a series of lectures at Mesrop Mashtots and Artsakh State Universities, she met and bonded with many University students. None had forgotten their time together and we were almost immediately friends with many young people we had only just met. Two of these students, Gabriel and Larisa, met us for the first time at the Roots cafe a few days before our courses started. At first they were shy, as all Artsakhtsi people tend to be, but once engaged were full of questions and a deep hunger to know and understand.

Together at the Roots.

While explaining the courses for this summer, Logic & Ethics being the class of particular interest, both were curious as to what this Philosophy course would offer them. We then spent half an hour discussing how to form an argument and practicing by attempting to answer questions they already had, beginning with “What is a human being?” and ending with “What is love?” It was this small, close moment that made it clear to me the deep and complex questions in the hearts of Artsakhtsi youth and how their answers to these questions will shape their future beliefs and actions.

When the Artsakhtsi meet a stranger (especially of the foreign type), they first and foremost want to know if the foreigner yet loves Artsakh and then what locations in Artsakh the foreigner has seen so far. Once you have provided your list (“I have seen Gandzasar Monastery, Shushi, and Hunot Canyon, all of which are beautiful,”) you must be prepared to be personally invited to visit all the rest. Such was the case with Gabriel and Larisa, whom, after finishing our coffees, were quick to invite us to their cultural monument “We Are Our Mountains,” just outside Stepanakert. As we walked together, they were as open as close friends as we discussed our aims, academia, English literature, and the like. Though the Artsakhtsi have little materially in comparison to Americans, they are always happy to give what little they own and always all of their attention and love, even to strangers from across the world.

Together at Tatik-Papik.

With the help of Gabriel and Larisa, word of our courses spread fast throughout Stepanakert. Our enrollment numbers grew rapidly over the course of a few days. Our five courses, originally containing a humble 25 students, became 75 students by June 1st when classes began. In response to the sudden demand, we opened two additional sections of courses, and still the number grew.

Students came from the Universities, many remembering Prof. Nash-Marshall and her promise to send English teachers from America. Many came from across Stepanakert, having heard from family and friends. Some came from villages throughout Artsakh. One student enrolled in our Beginner English course came from a village in Armenia four hours away. Parents brought their children to learn English. Friends brought their friends to join as well. By the second week of classes our enrollment numbers totaled more than 170. By now the hunger in Artakh to learn was self-evident.

Students in class, listening and thinking.

With the help of Gabriel and Larisa, word of our courses spread fast throughout Stepanakert. Our enrollment numbers grew rapidly over the course of a few days. Our five courses, originally containing a humble 25 students, became 75 students by June 1st when classes began. In response to the sudden demand, we opened two additional sections of courses, and still the number grew.

Students came from the Universities, many remembering Prof. Nash-Marshall and her promise to send English teachers from America. Many came from across Stepanakert, having heard from family and friends. Some came from villages throughout Artsakh. One student enrolled in our Beginner English course came from a village in Armenia four hours away. Parents brought their children to learn English. Friends brought their friends to join as well. By the second week of classes our enrollment numbers totaled more than 170. By now the hunger in Artakh to learn was self-evident.

So far, we have done everything to meet this hunger. This means engaging the student not only in class, but outside as well. Our students join us at our office hours, held at the Roots, with their personal inquiries. They invite us to join them in visiting their cultural and historical monasteries, palaces, and castles. They are, after all, Armenians and therefore descendants of the first Christian nation and Artsakh is home to many glorious ancient sites that prove this fact. As Europe’s second largest cross glows over Stepanakert in the evenings, it is clear that their ancient faith persists.

At Jdrduse with our students.

Only our second weekend here, some of our students joined us for Sunday mass at Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi. Us Americans, three clearly foreign strangers, were at first denied the host by the priests who were rightly uncertain of our baptism. An Armenian woman in the congregation who did not know any of us, approached us thereafter and with the simple English she knew (and with the help of our students to translate when necessary) ascertained that we had indeed been baptized. She then brought the matter to the other ladies of the congregation and together they intervened on our behalf. We were then allowed to take communion privately once the service was ended. The Armenians of Artsakh embody the virtues of the Christian faith: they obey God and protect the host when reasonable but are also overjoyed to share His graces.

This ancient faith, to its roots strong, generous, courageous, and loving, ground all the Artsakhtsi. I learned as much, if not more, from the virtues of the Artsakhtsi people, than I taught my last summer in Stepanakert. I wanted my young American friends, all bright and promising but uncertain in an era of ideological warfare, to learn these lessons as well. To learn how to be virtuous and how to stand by these principles, even when evil is rampant. It is a lesson that I hope spreads throughout the West, for the sake of our youth and the future decisions they will make to shape their countries.

Etta, our new volunteer teacher, admires the mountains of Artsakh.

Between courses, time outside of class encouraging the growth of our students, building connections with the Universities and Artsakh Ministries of Education, Culture, and Youth Affairs, and introducing our new volunteers to the many beauties of Artsakh, I and our little, home-grown foundation are pushing hard to assure the successful growth of this program. Our President, Prof. Nash-Marshall, will be touring California in early July, spreading the word about our work, and presenting her new book about the Armenian Genocide, The Sins of the Fathers: Turkish Denialism and the Armenian Genocide. On the ground here, we are laying the foundations for the spread of this program across Artsakh and into the rest Armenia. In September, we will officially announce an award to finance and support Artsakh youth-lead initiatives to develop culture and industry in their country.

In addition to all of this, we are also leading a crowdfunding campaign to help ensure the success of our current program and its future. Please consider making a contribution, to support the oldest Christian people and their model of virtue to the Western world. And also for our young American volunteer teachers, that they may learn these virtues and bring them home.

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Update posted by Stephanie Havens On May 28, 2018

Our volunteer English teachers have arrived in Stepanakert and are preparing for their classes to begin on Friday!

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Backed with $50.00 On Jul 20, 2018

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Backed with $20.00 On Jul 04, 2018

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Judith Saryan

Backed with $500.00 On Jun 13, 2018

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Backed with $50.00 On Jun 02, 2018

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Backed with $100.00 On May 24, 2018

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Stephanie Havens

Executive Director of CINF

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The Executive Director of the Christians In Need Foundation

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Gabriel Petrosyan

Following Since Jul 21, 2018

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Ani Khachian

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