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Story by Aram Petrosyan | Program Coordinator | Heifer Armenia
and Emma Sargsyan | Media Coordinator | Heifer Armenia
Photos courtesy of Heifer Armenia
The Syunik Region is stunning in any season: autumn is colorful, winter is snowy and summer is mild. The picturesque communities, surrounded by forests, evoke images of enchanted lands described in fairytales.
Shikahogh village is one of the most picturesque places of Syunik. In the past it was a prosperous village, home to about 150 families. Following the independence of Armenia, during the Nagorno Karabakh War, the inhabitants were deeply concerned about keeping the village safe and the enemy out.
The courageous inhabitants of Shikahogh were able to protect their village; however, the vibrance of the community faded as time progressed. With no work and no electricity, living conditions were substandard. The village languished, and, family-by-family, people left to seek a better life, either abroad or in the capital city of Yerevan.
In 2008, when Heifer Armenia first arrived, only 50 families lived in the village. Thirteen of them received cows and training from Heifer. By 2011, these families were ready for the Passing on the Gift® (POG) ceremony, where they passed on 13 cows to new families. Heifer Armenia’s approach has stimulated economic development in Shikahogh, slowing residents' migration to the cities.
In fact, through this gradual economic recovery process, the village has seen the return of two families who had left. Beglaryan Babken brought his family back from Kapan and received a pregnant heifer in the POG ceremony. Babken, who has a disability, works hard and contributes to the improvement of his village. The family is now fully engaged in community life. “I never thought we could ever have a cow," Karine Babken said. "Today we have our Sevo, the cow, and the calf, Khurma. Milk, matsoun (a type of yogurt) and cheese are really abundant in our house now.” We hope that more families will choose to remain in Shikahogh and the families there will thrive with the extra income and stability the cows provide.