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Habitat for Humanity’s ‘Catholicos Karekin II Work Project’ begins


Volunteers to help eradicate poverty housing in Armenia

YEREVAN, Armenia (April 10, 2007) — Paint brushes, trowels and hammers will swing into action this week, as Habitat for Humanity begins to lift 37 families from poverty housing in Armenia.

The second annual Habitat for Humanity “Catholicos Karekin II Work Project” kicks off in Armenia today. Volunteers from around the globe will descend upon Armenia to build homes side by side with homeowner families, local sponsors, volunteers, dignitaries and monks from the Armenian Apostolic Church.

“The Armenian Apostolic Church is delighted to launch this event once again with Habitat for Humanity. It’s not only a celebration of people coming together to help families in need, but it’s also an important step toward removing the blight of poverty housing in Armenia,” says Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

During building events around the country from April through October, 37 homes built in partnership with families in need will be completed in Armenia, symbolizing 36 worldwide dioceses, plus the Holy See. His Holiness, Karekin II, Catholicos of all Armenians, is expected to bless the event’s official opening at the Etchmiadzin Gevorgyan seminary on April 10.

Churches and individuals are challenged to fully sponsor or to contribute to a home. The Catholicos Project Family Sponsorship Cost for 2007 will be $7,360, which is an average for the cost of renovations, half-build homes and new construction.

The first building event kicks off with a volunteer team coming from the United States. The Habitat volunteers will be completing homes that were abandoned and left unfinished after the economic collapse in the early 1990s in Armenia where nearly half of the country still lives in poverty conditions.

The Haroyan family of the Khor Virap village is the first selected among the 37 families. Sahak, 43, and his wife Piruza, 36, are vegetable farmers currently residing in a neighbor’s basement with their three children, ages 18, 16 and 14. Economic strife forced the family to live in the basement for seven years, as they have been unable to raise enough funds to complete their own home. Piruza suffers rheumatism in her legs due to the humidity. “If you help us, we will finish and move to our new house by the next winter,” Piruza said to a visiting Habitat team.

The Armenian Church signed a historic partnership with Habitat for Humanity in April 2006, aimed to combat poverty housing in Armenia and worldwide. The first “Catholicos Karekin II Work Project” was held in Gavar, Armenia, where a building was renovated in partnership with 24 families, with an additional 13 homes built around the country.

In Michigan in 2005, the Catholicos participated in Habitat’s 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.

Armenia is a country of 3 million nestled in the southern Caucasus. 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 has provided homes in partnership with more than 1,000 people.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity in Armenia, visit www.hfharmenia.org.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in Americus, Ga., in 1976, Habitat has built more than 225,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.