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Habitat for Humanity leads second annual ‘His Holiness Karekin II Work Project’ in Armenia

Three Habitat partner families in Khor Virap, Armenia, help build their new homes

ATLANTA (Sept. 5, 2007) – A team of volunteers from throughout the United States recently joined forces with Armenian volunteers to participate in the second annual “His Holiness Karekin II Work Project” (HHKIIWP) in the Armenian village of Khor Virap. His Holiness Karekin II, current leader of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church, attended the build event and shared the joy of the Habitat partner families by celebrating the blessing of their new homes.

“The world has no borders. I left my two children at home and arrived here to help these children to get a safe shelter,” said U.S. volunteer Lauren Glennon.

The U.S. team was led by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Bensen, Habitat for Humanity Michigan president; and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, diocese legate and member of Habitat for Humanity International’s board of directors.

The second annual HHKIIWP was launched in April 2007 and will conclude in October. During these months, Habitat for Humanity is completing 27 houses and 10 renovations in 10 communities of Armenia, representing 36 worldwide dioceses and the headquarters of the Armenian Church. In addition, Habitat is inviting 37 churches as well as donors to sponsor the homes.

One recent construction event took place in the village of Khor Virap during the week of Aug. 14-18, when a group of 14 U.S. volunteers worked together with the Sargsyan family, whom they also sponsored.

The Haroyan family was joined by several local and international groups of volunteers, among them the Ararat Diocese Christian youth group, Khor Virap community members and Habitat families, Birthright Armenia nonprofit organization volunteers from the United States and Canada, and monks from Holy Etchmiadzin. The Haroyan family, who has lived in a cramped basement for the past seven years, is slated to move into their new house before winter. Armenia-based telecommunications company VivaCell sponsored and helped build a total of 10 houses within the project, including the Haroyans’ house.

By Aug. 18, all homes were ready for dedication, including the home for a third partner family, the Misakyansys. The Armenian Apostolic Church performed the home-blessing ceremony for the three homeowner families and guests. Supporters and volunteers were invited to join the celebration. “The grace of giving is a gift of God and I can see this grace on all the faces that helped to build these homes,” said Archbishop Vicken Ayakazian.

“This is a blessed work that you have done, as families like my son’s could get a safe shelter for their children. We are happy and wish each family in need to feel the happiness of having a decent place to live,” said the father of Haroyan Sahak.

His Holiness Karekin II Work Project started in April 2006 when the Armenian Church signed a historic partnership with Habitat for Humanity with the goal of combating poverty housing in Armenia and worldwide. The first HHKIIWP was held in Gavar, Armenia, where a building was renovated in partnership with 24 families, and included an additional 13 homes built around the country.

Nestled in the southern Caucasus, Armenia has a population of 3 million with about 40,000 families lacking permanent shelter, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Over the past decade a devastating earthquake, regional conflicts, the collapse of the Soviet Union and a newly established independence, as well as the economic crisis, have led to the enormous scope of housing poverty in Armenia. Thousands still live in metal “domiks,” iron containers used for temporary earthquake relief.

Habitat for Humanity Armenia has been working with families in need since 2000, and has served more than 340 families comprising more than 1,600 people.

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 1976, Habitat has built more than 225,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.