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Armenia: Straight to the village

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Western Europe, Armenia, Finland, Norway, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, Development, Digital Activism, Economics & Business, Refugees, Women & Gender, Youth

With a GDP per capita estimated at just $5,400 in 2011, Armenia is one of the poorest countries in the former Soviet Union. But although development in the center of the country's capital, Yerevan, might paint a different picture for some tourists, especially from its large Diaspora, the economic situation is most evident in the regions of the landlocked South Caucasus country.

With regional development increasingly a priority in Armenia, online site CivilNet [1] has teamed up with Timothy Straight, one of Armenia's few non-Armenian foreigners who have made the country their home. Traveling to a different village each week, the former head of the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Honorary Consul for Norway and Finland, hopes to change all that [2].

“What we're trying to do is gather information and spread it, so that people can get correct understanding of what village life in Armenia is like,” explains the text accompanying a promotional video for Թիմը գնում է գյուղ (Tim goes to the village), otherwise known as Straight to the village.

The first episode went online on 20 September last year and takes a look at two villages close to the border with Turkey whose income is based on fruit production.

In the latest installment uploaded to YouTube on 2 April, and subtitled in English and Armenian, Straight travels to the impoverished town of Vardenis close to Armenia's Lake Sevan. The purpose of the visit is to meet with a local NGO working with disabled children.

On 12 March, the program celebrated its 20th episode with an interview with Straight [3] where he “talks about some of the highlights and explains the reason why he does the program and the potential long-term effect of the show.”

Knighted by the King of Norway in 2010, Straight's involvement in regional development in Armenia is not limited to the video reports. Homeland Handicrafts [4], for example, is a voluntary organization dedicated to creating a sustainable income for artisans [5] in Armenia.


Particularly using online tools, a blog [6] as well as Facebook [7] and Pinterest [8] pages are also used to promote the initiative. Timothy Straight can also be followed on Twitter at @timothystraight [9].