Gohar Grigoryan heads to a training; she has been with UMCOR for more than a decade.
Courtesy of UMCOR Armenia
By Wickham Boyle*
August 2, 2012―Gohar Grigoryan began her life in the Soviet Union; her early years seemed prescribed in a way that is completely different from the twists and turns that have molded her to be the head of mission of UMCOR in Armenia. “I am born in Armenia in Soviet time and, so, my education and my background were given to me. I was a computer programmer, but when the USSR fell apart, I had to change my work just to survive,” she says.
Grigoryan began working with CARE USA in 1993 as a way to both give back to her people and to have a job that could grow as her country got back on its feet. She was involved in what she describes as “pure relief work” and learned how to be in service to others. When she came to work with UMCOR Armenia in 2000, her mission and tasks became much more diversified. Making the most of her ability to speak English, Armenian, and Russian, Grigoryan’s days are full with overseeing the UMCOR mission operation.
A country like Armenia, which currently is not facing emergency conditions, still is rebuilding and attempting to emerge from a dearth of opportunity brought on by war and blockades stretching back decades. Grigoryan’s work involves planning, strategizing, and fundraising to provide a wide swath of programs meant to assist Armenia’s poorest citizens. In order to do this work, Grigoryan, who has no family of her own, works tirelessly for others, meeting with government officials, collaborating with other NGOs, and building up UMCOR programs.
Grigoryan cares deeply about her country. “I am happy to be an Armenian,” she says. “I have visited over 20 different countries and I am always so happy to be back home.”
UMCOR programs in Armenia include areas such as health, agriculture, food security, and anti-trafficking. Grigoryan describes human trafficking as “really modern slavery, and it affects mostly young women; there are men also, but not so many. So we are providing programs to save these trafficked people and get them rehabilitation to return to a safe world where they can be self-sufficient.”
Grigoryan continues, “In 2004, anti-trafficking was a new concept for all the staff. We knew it was old in the world, but in Armenia, human slavery was new. During the last ten years, we established lots of good relations [to serve this population]. Currently, trafficked persons are referred to us by hotline and also by NGOs and law enforcement.” Some 30 to 40 survivors of human trafficking pass through UMCOR Armenia’s shelter every year, where they are offered a full package of programs to help them return to society.
As well as the important work and long days that Grigoryan puts in, she says her personal goal is to be happy and to make other people happy. She seems to have already met that one.
Your gift to Armenia Emergency, UMCOR Advance #250225 supports the work of our field office in Armenia.
*Wickham Boyle is a writer and a frequent contributor to umcor.org.