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‘Catholicos Karekin II Work Project’ kicks off

September 6, 2006

GAVAR, Armenia (Sept. 6) – Seventy-two priests, 12 freshly planted trees, and more than 300 volunteers from Lebanon to Liverpool joined the festive build of homes for 24 families in need this week in Armenia.

His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of all Armenians, blessed the event held in his name, and planted a symbolic tree to represent a new beginning for the families who will move into their new homes by week’s end.

This Sept. 5-9 build project will provide 37 homes for families in need in Armenia, symbolizing 36 worldwide Dioceses of the Armenian Church, plus the Holy See. Volunteers are sanding, painting and hammering away in renovating one apartment building of 24 homes in Gavar, near Armenia’s Lake Sevan. A further 13 homes are being built across the country.

“Everyone volunteered at the embassy, and I didn’t even ask them to,” says Richard Hyde, Deputy Head of Mission for the British Embassy in Armenia, taking a break from painting. “It’s not so much about giving money, it’s about taking part. It’s the sense of doing something for the sake of doing it.”

Hyde was working alongside future Habitat homeowners and other volunteers who have come from as far as the Netherlands and the U.S. Bob Edgar, for 12 years a member of the U.S. Congress, was busy sanding a ceiling: “What you see here are the real weapons of mass construction,” he laughs. “Our goal here is to end poverty in Armenia. No child, no family, should have to live in inadequate shelters.”

Edgar, a longtime Habitat supporter, is a United Methodist Minister and Head of the U.S. National Council of Churches. He led a Global Village team of 19 to Armenia this week.

The build comes on the heels of a historic partnership signed between the Armenian Apostolic Church and Habitat for Humanity in April, aimed at combating poverty housing worldwide.

“It is great to see so many people in action today,” says Don Haszczyn, Area Vice President for Habitat for Humanity Europe and Central Asia. “There is a great spirit here and it was wonderful to have His Holiness join us at work.”

Among the Catholicos, and scores of international volunteers, other scheduled participants include: Nic Retsinas, Director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and Habitat for Humanity’s International Board of Directors Chair; Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Ken Bensen from Habitat for Humanity International, various ambassadors, and representatives from the Armenia Tree Project.

“All my life – all my life I could not have dreamt about an apartment like this. I’m an old man and I wish I am given the time to help other people as I have been helped,” says Sogohonon Martirosov, a new homeowner who will share the apartment with his 22-year-old son.

In Michigan in 2005, the Catholicos participated in the annual home blitz build, the Jimmy Carter Work Project, where he met with President Carter. Following that, the Catholicos gave his blessing for a home-building event to be created and held in Armenia.

In Armenia, a country of 3 million nestled in the southern Caucasus, 45% of the population lives in poverty, according to the Council of Europe. Over the past decade, a devastating earthquake, conflict, the Soviet Union’s collapse, and a newfound independence have led to economic crisis. Thousands still live in metal “domiks”, iron containers used for temporary earthquake relief, which act like refrigerators in the winter; and boilers in the summer. Habitat for Humanity Armenia has been working with families in need since 2000, and provided homes for more than 1,000 people.

About Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a nondenominational Christian charity dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. It has built more than 200,000 houses; more than one million people are living in Habitat homes they helped build and own through low-cost, no-profit mortgages. We have positively affected lives in 100 countries around the globe. Habitat’s Europe & Central Asia regional headquarters are in Budapest, Hungary. The ECA region is actively fundraising, building and renovating homes with families in need.

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