Despite the difficulties, Zvart remains cheerfulPublished: Jan 2, 2023 Reading time: 3 minutes
Her eyes are shining and hopeful, and yet sad at the same time. She has witnessed more than an average woman her age. Zvart Manucharyan was forced to leave her ancestral home due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict of 2020. Originally, she is from the village of Aknaghbyur, Askeran District, where she had spent most of her life. Zvart is an economist by profession, and for more than 20 years, she worked as an accountant at her own shop in Aknaghbyur. She was happy with her life there.
When the war broke out, Zvart insisted on staying in Askeran. She felt deep affection for her birthplace and didn’t want to leave all her memories there. However, she had to flee on October 23 and settle in Yerevan, Armenia.
This bright woman didn’t lose hope. Staying true to the meaning of her name (‘Zvart’ means ‘cheerful’ in Armenian), Zvart found enough strength to stand on her own two feet and create her future in Yerevan. After experimenting in different work environments, Zvart ended up making pastry. She enrolled in a pastry training provided by Sedrak Mamulyan’s Culinary Studio within the EU humanitarian aid-funded and People in Need-implemented project ‘REACT: Relief and Early Recovery for People Affected by Conflict in Armenia’․
After completing the course, Zvart received a job offer from a well-known café-restaurant in Yerevan. Now she works at the Ground Zero café-restaurant as a confectioner. Zvart is very happy with what she does and plans to have her own pastry shop soon. She believes that determination and diligence will lead to the implementation of her dreams.
Cooking courses can kick-start a new career
So far, within the REACT project, 73 beneficiaries have received culinary training, and 117 have received pastry training at Sedrak Mamulyan’s Culinary Studio. Chef Sedrak Mamulyan, one of the most devoted and well-known culinary leaders of Armenia, notes: “The cooperation with People in Need is in the framework of mutual interest. Our organisation - Armenian Cookery Traditions Development and Protection NGO – is aimed to preserve and promote national ideologies, national cuisine and national culture; hence such a social initiative is in tune with our objectives."
What does the course look like and what can participants take from it? "This program is well-thought and enables the participants to work in public food courts and become private entrepreneurs by creating their own. In addition, we use our network to support the graduates to get hired based on their working style and skills. After completion of the course, we continue supporting our students. Interestingly, people who mastered some skills could enrich their knowledge and become more experienced; they dealt with new experiences that they had never thought of, gained new skills and thorough understanding of food items and confectionery products.”
This project is a way of helping displaced people fully integrate into society. Project trainer Ruzanna Nahapetyan states: "Talking to the beneficiaries, I found out that they all wanted to have their own small business. The cooking equipment they received after completing the course has contributed to this initiative. I follow their social media pages and see that many bake at home and sell their products. This makes me happy. All the participants were impressed by People in Need, as all the employees were careful. Due to that attitude, they felt encouraged."
Thanks to EU funds, we are helping displaced people in five regions of Armenia find work and integrate into society: Syunik, Vayots Dzor, Kotayk, Ararat, Armavir. To this end, we have initiated vocational education courses in culinary, pastry, tailoring, accounting, social media marketing and other careers. Thus far, about 670 beneficiaries have received vocational education courses specialising in different areas.