By Cara Taylor | Jinishian Memorial Program
Nearly three-quarters of Armenia’s population are under the age of 30, yet many are tempted to leave for more opportunity. With a history scarred by genocide and communist collapse, Armenia’s young people face an uphill climb out of generational poverty. Few jobs are available for enthusiastic young talent, especially outside the capital city.
In response, the Jinishian Memorial Foundation (JMF) has developed a nationwide strategy to empower young leaders to be part of the solution for social, economic and political challenges. It starts with giving them a chance to work on their own projects.
Through the Civic Dialogue and Action for Change project, university students research and analyze issues around human rights, the environment and economic stability. Then, they craft proposals and earn small grants to confront problems in their own communities in practical ways. One group of students provided tutoring for chronically-ill children in the hospital and won Best Humanitarian Voluntary Project of the year.
Having already completed school and military service, Sargis participated in another JMF program for visionary young adults: Youth in Action for Change. Although he was born in the harsh post-Soviet years when food, fuel and other resources were scarce, Sargis developed expertise in electronics and had a dream to train others.
With Jinishian support, Sargis and three friends enlisted other municipal stakeholders and designed a STEM program for dozens of disadvantaged youth, including programming, labs twice a week, and individual projects.
After a strong start with JMF, Sargis and his colleagues have plans to continue and have already recruited a new group of kids, including many from a local orphanage.
In addition to motivating social change, JMF aims to boost economic independence by helping launch entrepreneurs. The Youth Business Project is focused on under-served youth in the remote regions of Lori and Gegharqunik. Given proper technical support and access to start-up capital to launch and grow their own small businesses, otherwise apathetic youth are creating value for their families and communities.
Today, JMF is coaching 22 young entrepreneurs to help them face challenges in their businesses while making low-interest funding available for up to five years. In Gavar, Gegharkunik region of Armenia, this young family runs a fruitful greenhouse business thanks to a micro-loan and mentorship through the Jinishian Memorial Program.
This long-term technical support while business owners strengthen their position in the marketplace is unprecedented. The formula is paying off: the new business accounts are the best performers their funder’s portfolio. For those who were otherwise ineligible for any loan, the success is a remarkable turning-point, and the young entrepreneurs are deeply grateful for the opportunity to stand on their own feet.
Presently, JMF is seeking to become a member of the Youth Business International Network and to fund expansion of the project to help more budding business-owners realize their dreams.
Armenia, surrounded by Muslim nations but strengthened by Christian roots, has tremendous potential to grow. Ninety percent of Jinishian projects, such as youth business development, are designed to promote long-term, sustainable change.
The Jinishian Memorial Program began in 1966 to meet the needs of the post-genocide Armenian population in the Middle East. Today JMP reached more than 70,000 people last year in seven locations — Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Artsakh and Georgia. The leadership and staff are 100 percent local and unite across Apostolic, Catholic and Evangelical traditions to share God’s love with the most vulnerable.
Give securely online to support the Jinishian Memorial Program. For young people living with poverty who see no way out, your involvement in the work of the Jinishian Memorial Program helps give them a chance at a different life.
…from poverty and despair
to self-sufficiency and hope