Vakhtang and Alla Simonyan live in Aragatsavan, in Armenia’s Aragatsotn region, and are members of Agricultural Production and Youth Development to Build Sustainable Livelihoods in Shirakamut Village, a partnership project between Heifer Armenia and Armenian Missionary Association of America. The couple has four children: daughters Sirousho, 11; Lusine, 7; and Elen, 2; and son Simon, 4. Vakhtang’s mother, Granny Siroush, also lives with them.
Vakhtang loves his family very much and works hard doing seasonal work in the field to support them. Despite long, strenuous hours, he only earns about $120 a month–hardly enough to support his family of seven. Alla’s days are spent running the family’s household, and Granny Siroush’s monthly pension is less than $50.
Fortunately, the Simonyans received a pregnant cow through the project. They treat their cow like a family member–caressing, feeding and taking very good care of it. The cow produces about 12 liters of milk each day, which is a tremendous benefit for the family. Granny Siroush prepares cheese and curds from the milk, and the children drink a cup of milk every morning when they wake up and every evening before they go to bed.
Vakhtang cultivates a small piece of land behind his house, where he grows potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages and carrots for his family to eat. In addition, their property features several fruit trees, including apple, apricot and plum, also for family consumption. Alla and Granny Siroush prepare jam and dry fruit to eat in the winter months. The family’s 10 hens provide fresh eggs, giving the children a reliable, daily source of protein. Other food, such as meat, sugar, bread, butter and pasta, must be bought at the market. Vakhtang realizes that nutritious food is vitally important for the continued growth of his young children, and he works day and night to make ends meet.
When we arrived at the Simonyans’ house, Vakhtang was not there. He had taken the cow out to the pasture. Alla and Granny Siroush said that they are very happy with the milk and fresh dairy products the cow has brought to their family. While the adults were talking, the children were running around asking a lot of questions. The main question that little Simon and Elen were concerned with, however, was when their cow would be home. They were looking forward to the cow’s return so they could watch Granny milk it.
Story and Photo by Knarine Ghazanchyan, Program Coordinator, Heifer Armenia
Translated by Liana Hayrapetyan, Communication & PR Coordinator, Heifer Armenia