“Just the Beginning”: With Support from International Orthodox Christian Charities, Women Embark on Sustainable New Careers in Armenia

Vocational Training, Supplies Offer Path for Women to Earn Reliable Income

Clothing design and construction are marketable skills in Armenia’s second city, where a Church vocational course is helping women train for sustainable careers. Photo: Shirak Diocese Social-Educational Center.

Baltimore, Md. (February 19, 2019) – As part of a 14,500-item shipment, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) recently delivered 3,000 sets of sewing supplies to the Social-Educational Center run by the Armenian Apostolic Church’s Shirak Diocese, supporting vocational training that equips women to enter new professions.

The Shirak Diocese’s program serves between 250 and 300 participants yearly, providing women who are unemployed with training and experience in various sectors, including culinary arts, woodworking, and cosmetology, as well as business correspondence and accounting, among others. The recent shipment, a collaboration of IOCC and Lutheran World Relief, specifically supported the garment design and construction course, which equips participants to earn a living in clothing production and tailoring.

Armenia’s economic growth has been slow since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and is still hampered by regional instability. The educational system does not cater to current market demands, so unemployment remains high among the educated. However, the textile and garment industry is growing in Gyumri, Shirak’s administrative center and Armenia’s second city, so vocational training delivers opportunity.

“Success in work is about trying the impossible to make the possible happen,” said participant Lusine S., age 30, who studied education at university and once taught Armenian language and literature. For her and for 53-year-old Gohar S., an economist by training who formerly worked at the statistics agency and real estate registry, maintaining a reliable income in Armenia’s challenging economy once seemed impossible. In the vocational course, both women saw an opportunity to turn a hobby into a new career.

Women in the garment course learn how to create clothing from start to finish—from design to assembly and on to alteration and repair. They train on sewing machines and study techniques for creating high-quality work by hand. Supplies delivered by IOCC provided the means for additional training as participants gained mastery. The course culminated in a fair at which participants sold their work to members of the public. Nearly all the pieces on offer sold.

Equipped through the Shirak Diocese’s vocational course with new skills and confidence in their expertise, Lusine and Gohar are planning for the future. Both have applied for full-time jobs in garment making, and they’re outlining steps to open their own business. “It is just the beginning,” they told staff.

In addition to the sewing supplies, the delivery also contained 5,000 school kits, 6,000 hygiene kits, and 3,500 quilts for children and families in need.

Gifts in kind, or donations of goods, are a core component of IOCC’s work, complementing program services. They offer access to goods that otherwise aren’t readily available in a particular area, help meet immediate needs, and support development efforts like the Shirak Diocese program in the longer term. Since 2005, IOCC has provided over $200 million in gifts in kind in 33 countries.

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International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is the humanitarian and development agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has provided more than $661 million in humanitarian relief and sustainable development programs in over 60 countries worldwide. Today, IOCC applies its expertise in humanitarian response to human-caused and natural crises in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States, offering assistance based solely on need. Follow us @IOCCRelief on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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