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Village Dream Realized

Sourp Astvatzatzin Church Before Renovation

Yeghvard, Armenia - After four years of summer campaigns, over eighty volunteers, thousands of hours of professional and volunteer work, the opening of Yeghvard village's Sourp Astvatzatzin Church took place on Saturday, August 20, 2011.

This small village, on the extreme eastern border of Armenia, in the Syunik region, had been blessed and honored with the grave of Toros Ishkhan, comrade-in-arms of David Beg.  The 17th century church had been in dire condition, the interior destroyed, the roof pitted and the outlaying gravestones overturned and untended, during the 70 years of Soviet rule. After the collapse of that regime, the village needed to concentrate on rebuilding itself and not their beloved church.


Organization Terre et Culture (OTC) and Land and Culture Organization (LCO-USA) adopted this project because of its historical significance, vulnerable location, and extreme desire of the villagers and its mayor to once again have their church.  The gratification and pleasure of the villagers during the reopening of this church was immeasurable.

Sourp Astvatzatzin Church Completed

The celebration lasted for many hours.  Present were Board members from French Organization Terre et Culture (OTC), Kegham Kevonian, Dr. Aram Gazarian, Aram Keropvyan, Araxie Antreassian. American Land and Culture Organization (LCO-USA) was represented by Board members, Dr. Haig Manjikian, Nazareth Kevonian and Hilda Manjikian. Needless to say, many past volunteers and members of both organizations made the long journey to see the fruition of their work.  The opening prayers for the church were performed by the clergy from the local town of Kapan.

Joining village mayor, Spartak Zakarian in celebration was the architect, Stepan Nalbandian, and various specialists in historical restoration who worked on this site. The project was overseen by Astghig Hacopian, head of the Armenian Monument Renovation Committee for the Syunik region.

Yeghvard Community Gathers for Church Opening

Over five hundred people, from villages far and near, gathered in Yeghvard's Community Center Courtyard to add their joy to this event.  Dance groups, theatrical presentations, recitations were presented for the villagers.  Many of our volunteers and villagers broke into spontaneous dancing themselves during the performances. They could not reign in their excitement. A celebratory dinner was prepared for the guests and volunteers after the performances.  Many toasts and speeches, as is the custom in Armenia, and much dancing and laughing was a fitting end to an unforgettable and moving experience.

After seventy years of Soviet neglect, two years under Azeri bombardment, twenty years of worry and four years of work, the village now feels complete.  A dream realized.

For over 30 years, LCO has been one of the earliest volunteers groups in Armenia and Karabakh working to restore, renovate, and rejuvenate the historical monuments and sites of our nation.  It has performed this mission through its summer campaigns, by volunteers of every age from the Diaspora and Armenia. To help our mission or join in our summer volunteer program, you may reach us at www.lcousa.org.

  • "There are experiences you shape and then there are experiences that shape you. The LCO Campaign of 2007 in the village of Azat offered me invaluable perceptions into the realities of my fellow Armenian brothers and sisters in a way only a true immersion program can. I urge everyone and anyone who might feel an inkling of belonging to this fascinating country, people, and history to sign up with the campaign immediately. I smile just thinking about what you have yet to experience."
    Noushig K, Azat 2007, CA, USA

  • "Coming back from a 4-day trip to Kharabagh really felt like coming back home, with our family waiting to greet us outside our house. That's when I realised just how attached we'd grown to the place, to our family, to the other volunteers"
    Anoosh Gasparian, Azat 2009, London UK

  • "I went to this trip with no expectations, and came back with a great appreciation for our country.  Life in the village is surreal, the food is beyond delicious and the people are incredibly nice. It was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget!"  Sam Tahmasian, 2009, CA, USA
  • "LCO is an amazing concept. It introduced the deprived Diasporan to their land and their people. It is a wonderful introduction to Armenia and something every young man or woman should experience."
    Madlene Minassian Ispirian, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, Yerevan, Armenia

  • "My most memprable experience was being so warmly taken care by an old village couple, receiving gifts from them, giving them gifts and establishing bonds."
    Naira Der-Kiureghian, Ayroum 2003, CA, USA

  • "...I know that when I reflect back on this experience I will feel ecstatic about the work we accomplished, the things we saw, and the bonds we forged."
    Hovig Saghdejian, Ayroum 2003, California, USA

  • "Dolma is made with mum's careful instructions, grandmothers eyes found on the faces of children, songs of Ararat are as familiar as the Khachkars dotting the landscape. If it smells like home, looks like home then it must be home."
    Datevig Simonian, Shadvan 2004, California, USA

  • "LCO experience was a revelation for me. It gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons both personally and professionally. One of the most important experiences of my life and an important factor in determining my future goals."
    Lara Aharonian, August 1999, August 2001, Montreal, Canada.

  • "I formed strong bonds with my volunteers, and the difference in backgrounds was refreshing. It was interesting to hear the points of view of different Armenians from other areas of the Diaspora."
    Aramazt Kalaydjian, Shoushi 2003, NY, USA

  • "I loved the simplicity of life in the village, the fresh homemade food is wonderful; that people are the friendliest and most hospitable... the children have the most beautiful faces..."
    Sophia Balakian, Shadvan 2004, New York, USA