This project is organized and run by the Kumayri Museum-Preserve & Aslamazyan Sisters' Gallery
Director, Kumayri Museum Preserve
Armen was born in 1988, trapped in one of the collapsed buildings following the earthquake, and has spent much of his life working to improve conditions in his hometown of Gyumri. He studied in both Armenia and the US and currently works with the Gyumri Project Hope charitable foundation, trying to raise awareness of the thousands of residents still living in “temporary” container homes.
Armen founded the TravelGyumri tour agency, which provides visitors with all information needed to tour Gyumri and the Shirak province. He is also an avid photographer, working to show the world the beauty of Armenian architecture, landscape and culture. He is currently working on a photo documentary about the daily struggle for survival of those still living in container home communities. He is AiP's onsite project partner.
Director, Kumayri Museum Preserve
Interpreter, International Team Coordinator
Knights of Vartan Fund for Armenian Studies
National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR)
DBL US$1,380 | SGL +US$175 for 7-day session
Optional 4-day Armenia tour +US$600
Discounts! Past participants always receive a discounted tour fee
Check out AiP's Loyalty Program
Additional Cost Information:
Costs are per person per 7-day session.
4-day tour is priced separately.
Your fee includes:
- All ground transportation, including airport pick-up and drop-off
- All meals
- Excursions during 7-day session
All participants are responsible for:
- Airfare to Yerevan, Armenia
- Visa if required
- Travel health insurance, including emergency evacuation coverage. Send AiP proof of purchase.
Preserve Gyumri’s Wooden Balconies
Date: Series of five one-week sessions beginning May 21, 2017; followed by optional 4-day tour
Learn building conservation skills as you help preserve historic wooden balconies, a striking feature of the fabulous historic architecture that holds the key to economic growth.
Why Volunteer in Armenia
AiP and the Gyumri, Armenia, municipality recognize the great importance of the city’s historic district in generating economic growth through heritage tourism. Tourism is key to creating jobs in the city, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in Armenia. Gyumri desperately needs the jobs that restoration and heritage tourism will bring.
The municipality designated the historic district as the Kumayri Cultural Museum-Preserve in 1980. The registry includes 1,200 historically significant structures, from housing to educational and industrial facilities to public buildings.
Disaster struck in 1988 when the Spitak earthquake devastated the city, including its historic core. More than half the city was destroyed and 17,000 people died. In the 28 years since the earthquake, disaster relief and basic housing have been the primary concerns, but many housing options are still substandard.
As a volunteer, you will learn building conservation skills as you help repair damaged buildings for use as housing, shops, artisan center and more.
AiP is looking for corporate sponsors to join us in leading the effort to provide safe and affordable housing and to boost the city’s economy. The remarkable historic buildings have been deteriorating since 1988 and action is needed now to save this valuable economic resource.
Balcony Conservation & Building Documentation – Project and Need
Conservation began in 2016, focusing on documentation that involved measurements, drawings, photographs and written and verbal data. The collected data will be used to find the most efficient solutions for restoration. Volunteers and local experts developed a format to evaluate each building to determine its priority for conservation based on physical condition, architectural value and tourist appeal. This work continues.
In 2017, work will focus on conservation of one of Gyumri’s few remaining traditional wooden balconies. The balcony is part of a historic 19th century residence now housing the Gallery of Mariam and Yeranuhi Aslamazyan. The gallery opened in 1987 when the sisters presented the city with 620 of their original paintings. After the 1988 earthquake, the second floor provided housing for people who had lost their homes. In 2004, the building was restored to its use as a gallery and art museum with funds from the Lincy foundation.
Depending on the session you attend, you may work alongside volunteers from Birthright, an organization that brings young ethnic Armenians living around the world to learn about their heritage and volunteer in Armenia for several months. You may also work with Gyumri Project Hope teams – students and professionals from across Armenia.
Some sessions offer jammers the opportunity to assist with archaeology work underway on a church buried under newer structures and forgotten. Work is dependent on funding.
Primary Project Goals for 2017:
- Preserve wooden balcony
- Continue documentation of earthquake damaged buildings
- Assist with archaeology as funding allows
I really like traveling this way and working and meeting professionals and this sort of program allows this. — Sue Robinson, 2015
In 1918 Gyumri, then known as Alexandrapol, took on the extreme challenge of assisting waves of Armenian refugees fleeing Turkish troops. Led by Near East Relief, three deserted army bases were converted into housing for orphans. The complex contained 170 buildings and became know as the “Orphan City,” ultimately harboring 22,000 orphans at its peak. By July 1922, the town of Alexandropol (Gyumri) and the orphanage complex housed a total of 31,000 children. This is key to understanding Gyumri’s residents and the impact they had on Armenians now scattered around the world.
My trip to Armenia was the most unique thing I’ve ever done. It gave me a new perspective on the world. While volunteering I got to meet many local families. They have suffered so much yet maintain their strength of spirit and generous attitude. — Lisa Harper 2016
Lodging and Meals
Lodging is provided at the historic Villa Kars, conveniently located within walking distance of the Kumayri Historic District, an outdoor market, restaurants and cafés, museums, and ancient churches.
Breakfast is provided at the Villa Kars. Lunches and dinners will be eaten at local restaurants.
Excursions and Free Time
Special activities are planned for several evenings, including local tours and meeting with craftsmen. Short excursions during the work week will focus on the Shirak region around Gyumri. Those interested may tour the home of Fourth Way spiritual leader, G.I. Gurdjieff. Many travel to Gyumri each year to visit the source of his teachings on the harmonious development of mankind.
After a full week of building documentation work in Gyumri, you may want to discover even more of this beautiful country. Enhance your adventure with a 4-day tour around Armenia led by a trained tour guide from Gyumri Travel. Simply select the option at the time of registration.
- May 21-28; optional tour runs May 29-June 1
- June 18-25; optional tour runs June 26-29
- July 16-23; optional tour runs July 24-27
- August 13-20; optional tour runs August 21-24
- September 17-24; optional tour runs September 25-28
Please schedule your arrival for the first day of the session. Airport pick-up will be arranged when we receive your flight schedule.
Flights to Armenia arrive in Yerevan at Zvartnots International Airport. Please plan to arrive the first day of the session. Depending on the time of your arrival, you may spend your first night in a hotel in Yerevan; or, you may go directly to Gyumri. Airport pick-up and transportation to Gyumri will be arranged once you register.
A visa may be required depending on your country of origin. In 2016, travelers from the US did not need a visa. Be sure to check the visa requirements for your country, as requirements may change from year to year.
Contact us if you have additional questions.
If you would like assistance with travel arrangements, contact Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters, AiP’s partnering travel agency.
If you have any questions or would like to chat with an AiP staff member about joining this cultural heritage experience, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at +1 303-444-0128.