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Amrakits community will have its dream library


Arusik Zeynalyan
Arusik Zeynalyan

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


A room with broken windows on the backside and better conditions at the entrance in the small building of Amrakits Municipality serves as a library to this community. The municipality possesses 5430 dusty books, damaged by moisture. Those books haven’t been opened for decades now. Anahit Tchshmarityan, employee of the municipality, who also manages the library, says that they haven’t received any book for 30 years, except for 65 outdated textbooks. Several elderly residents of the community used to come to the library before, but they have already passed away, and no one visits the municipality now.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


The school library, which occupies a small room, has neither a reader nor a book to offer. This building, which was constructed in several months after the earthquake (1988), doesn’t provide a relevant number of classrooms, assembly room, library or canteen.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


The polish smell has filled the second floor. The door to the room with “Assembly room” sign is closed with various objects so that no one can enter; the parquet has just been polished. Recently everyone’s attention has been focused on this room. Soon it will host a modern library, which students have only seen on television.

“I noticed the situation when I entered the library to take textbooks ahead of the new academic year. I took advantage of great libraries when I was a student and I know what kind of pleasure it is to be surrounded with books. The library should be bright and interactive. You will never bring here someone who has never read a book at will, when the only thing you can offer is a pile of grey and worn-out books. I was very sorry that my students didn’t have the opportunity that I had as a student, so I started working in that direction,” Arusik Zeynalyan said. Within the frames of Teach For Armenia Fellowship, Arusik is an English teacher at Amrakits Secondary School in Lori marz since September last year. 

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


She discussed with School Principal Ms. Sargsyan her idea of creating a multifunctional library with modern furnishing and the latter encouraged her.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


“In fact, I didn’t expect she would succeed, but I wouldn’t stand in her way. Arusik was so excited, I just I didn’t want to let her down. I said: “You may try, it would be great if you succeed and if not, never mind”,” School Principal Gohar Sargsyan tells.

“The village has no entertainment center. We can only offer our school now. Students manage to go home and return before we finish our work. I guess the schoolyard is the only sealed area, where kids can play games.”

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


Arusik understood that she wouldn’t manage on her own and she needed the help of a specialist. She remembered Hayk Zalibekyan, an architect who moved to Armenia from Russia several years ago.  She wrote a long letter to him, explaining why it was absolutely necessary to create a library in Amrakits and asking for his help. In less than an hour he sent his “Yes”.


“The library looks like it was brought from another planet. Children will see, hear and learn a lot here, they will change and, finally, they will start to dream.

We divided the library into several sections. They will have classes at one section and play at the other. The windowsills are for reading. We will also have a section for an assembly hall with a screen for film viewing. The most important element of this job is creating something new for these children. The furniture, materials and colors are chosen not based on our budget, but based on what’s best. Soon the kids will get used to this, and they will challenge themselves to be better every day. When they see a broken door, damaged buildings, they think it’s normal. Their parents and grandparents grew up in these conditions, so they will do the same. I hope this library will change them, and they will change their parents,” Hayk says.


To realize the project the team needed USD 10,000, of which they have already collected USD 8,820. Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan has also helped. The sum is still not enough to cover the expenses on a projector, curtains, chairs and various other objects, but they are convinced that this issue will also be solved.


The children found out about the initiative a little bit later. Arusik wanted to make sure that her idea would come into reality. First she was upset with the children’s feedback, but then she understood that she was on the right track.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


“One of them said: “Ms Arusik, you can’t do it, we don’t believe.” I wasn’t offended, I just got upset. I asked: “And why do you think I can’t do it?” “No one ever did it, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with us.” I discovered yet another issue, which relates to everyone and especially to children from villages: they think that it’s a great idea, but not for them, they don’t deserve it, it is for someone from Yerevan or America, but not for them.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


They still ask about the color of the walls. I always tell them to take the picture (the sketch) and look for themselves. They ask whether the result in fact will be according to the sketch or it is approximate. They still don’t believe.”

Sometimes, Arusik too had doubts on whether her plan would be realized, whether she would be able to collect the required amount of money. When the first steps were taken and the room was provided with new windows, all her doubts disappeared. “I entered the school and felt the wave of change, and I understood that there was no way back”.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


The library will host lectures on various topics and meetings, which will be open to children from neighbouring communities as well. Hayk and Arusik believe that the change of the atmosphere will significantly influence the children’s lives, so surrounding them with books will be an important step. First they will be attracted by the appearance of the books, which then will make them open and read them.  

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


The selection of books is a serious business: soon they will release the list of books they need and anyone willing to share can donate.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


“The environment can change a lot. A book you read in a right moment and people you might meet here can change a lot in your life too. This will be a room where children discover that they can be themselves, see that there is nothing terrible in speaking their mind, and talk about their fears or dreams.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


This is a project not only for books and reading, but for dreaming as well. In English we call it “A space to dream and dare”, where you can actually dream and dare to do something. When we ask children about their dreams or goals, the majority says, “I don’t have one.” Perhaps, some children without dreams really exist, but most of them are simply scared to talk about it or they don’t even realize they have a dream. Those are the problems, with which we need to work properly. I don’t believe I can solve all those issues, but I want to try.”

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


Arusik teaches grades 5-9. English is the third foreign language in Amrakits school, after Russian and German. The school is small, with just 59 students. It used to have grades from 1 to 12, but they were joined and narrowed down to 8. For instance, the only 7th grade student girl studies with 8th grade students.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


“Arusik was like a ray of sunshine for us, someone with a fresh set of mind, unlike us in everything she does and thinks. The children took on her very quickly. We go home and she stays, working with children in different clubs for a long time. She has so much to give to them,” said the Principal.

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


The students made inquiries and found out the date of Ms. Arusik’s birthday. And on that day, Ms. Arusik discovered the reason the kids had been so excited for several days prior to that.

She walks into the classroom, equipment for the lesson in hand, and the students are waiting with a cake and a present box. They say their congratulations and form a neat row – it is time for photos. After one or two, Arusik breaks the somewhat solemn mood, “Now let’s take photos while being silly, the way we are in everyday life!” The director laughs, “This is another novelty Arusik has brought to our school!”

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


The hall leading to the teachers’ common room features a queue during the break: kids from other classes are waiting for their turn to give the birthday cards to Ms. Arusik. One of the teachers notices that they should call the English teacher “Miss” in English instead of the Armenian address (which translates both as “miss” and “friend”), but Arusik says, “No, let them address me in Armenian.”

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


Arusik was born and raised in Moscow. When she started studying in the Faculty of International Relations, she thought the profession would help her move to Armenia. Second course in, she realized she had made a wrong choice and wants to work in protection of children’s rights. After getting her bachelor’s degree, Arusik entered the College of the London University. Her thesis was on inclusive education in Armenia. Arusik traveled to Armenia and studied current problems in that area, then decided to see for herself how the laws are executed and applied to Teach For Armenia. One of the participants told her that they never get up unhappy about going to work, and she said in surprise, “Is that possible?”

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


“I would feel happy if my parents were in Armenia. They didn’t manage to come and it pains me. But I know I am where I’m supposed to be. I am interested in what I am doing and I never get bored. Each time I enter the classroom is like the first time, I try to find a common ground with the children and I think how much meaning each word I say carries.”

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


Arusik used to live in Stepanavan  the first few months. There was no available accommodation in Amrakits. Every day Arusik and another teacher would walk around the village, looking for a rented place so that Arusik could live close to the students and manage the English and handmade craft clubs. Finally, they found a place. The house is big but Arusik uses only one room, as there is no heating. The walls in her room are covered with family pictures – her parents at different age and in different countries; posters, cards.
“It was very important for me to move to the village and see the hardships firsthand, live a quiet life of the countryside, in a place without water supply and with outdoor toilet. I don’t want to leave Armenia, but also, I don’t want to live in Yerevan. I love Vanadzor. I can make an informed decision after going through all this. And no one can say, “Ah, you have come from Moscow, it is easy for you to speak.”

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


A choir of whispers can be heard on the other side of Arusik’s door. The students have come to eat the cake together. This is the first time they will come into a teachers’ living place. While Arusik is trying to find plates and glasses for nine people among her modest kitchenware, the children are studying the photos on the wall, clarifying who and where they depict. Soon, the sense of foreignness is gone and the questions become bolder. Doesn’t she have a TV set? Where does she sleep? Doesn’t she get scared at night?

Photo: Vaghinak Ghazaryan/Mediamax


Before the kids leave, they open the present gift and fasten the golden watch with white stones on Ms. Arusik’s wrist.

P.S. While we were preparing this article, the Armenian Educational Foundation confirmed their willingness to support the library project. The funding they donated will allow Arusik and her team to fully renovate and furnish the library.

Lusine Gharibyan

Photos by Vaghinak Ghazaryan (for Mediamax)

VivaCell-MTS is the general partner of the project

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