The Craftsmanship and Artistry of Artsakh Armenians
on Display and Available to the World Full Throttle
By Vic Gerami
Building on their successful first fashion show in Stepanakert in December 2021, Antonia Arslan Armenian-Italian Hamalir vocational school in Artsakh, an initiative of the Christians In Need Foundation (CINF), has launched an online auction to raise funds for future programs.
Antonia Arslan Armenian-Italian Hamalir was established to help the Artsakhtsi strengthen and rebuild after the 2020 attack by Azerbaijan and Turkiye. The school offers a variety of courses, programs, and educational opportunities. Last fall, two Italian master-tailors worked closely with their Artsakhtsi students in hands-on workshops. The result was a fall line and a fashion show.
The school has a very ambitious plan that has started with a bang. Among other criteria, they plan to replicate the northern Italian micro-industrial economic system in Artsakh, establish mutually beneficial professional relations between Italian micro-industries and Chambers of Commerce and Artsakh, and bolster the economic infrastructure of the Republic.
Please check out the auction site, view the garments, and place bids.
About Christians In Need Foundation (CINF)
The Christians In Need Foundation (CINF) is a non-profit organization serving Christian communities throughout the Middle and Near East since its founding in 2014.
Their mission is to preserve ancient Christian traditions in their diversity, that they may continue to inform those communities to which they belong and have them coherently inform those actions that will help these communities, especially in the Middle East and the Caucasus, to prosper economically,
socially, and culturally.
Founded by CINF-USA in 2019-2020, the Stepanakert-based branch of the Foundation has been integral to the development of projects and programs in Artsakh.
CINF-Artsakh is headed and run by Artsakhtsi, who work within their community to support and improve it. The Director of CINF-Artsakh actively discusses with the Artsakhtsi the problems they face and then coordinates with local educational and governmental representatives to determine how CINF might help.
Founded in 2014 by Siobhan Nash-Marshall and Rita Mahdessian in Glendale, California, the Christians In Need Foundation (CINF) was a response to the horrors inflicted upon Christians in the Middle East and the Caucasus. By November of that same year, CINF arranged for eight Syrian Christians to study in the United States, intending to aid in the preservation of the cultures of the communities to which the students belonged through education. Yet when the program was set to launch, all eight student visas were denied.
In 2015, CINF decided to reverse course and send teachers abroad to live and work with Christian communities in the Middle East and Caucasus. That summer, in answer to a request for help, CINF sent its first volunteer teacher, a recent college graduate, to Tashir, Armenia to teach English to 150 children at the Diramayr Hayastani Ketron summer camp. While living in Tashir, the volunteer came to know the community, its virtues, and its particular needs. She also developed important skills: leadership, communication, organization, and cooperation.
The 2015 experience became the model for CINF’s work. Through it, the Board realized that it was meant to serve both Christians of the Middle and Near East as well as Western youth. By sending young, ambitious volunteers, especially from America, to live in ancient Christian communities, CINF could aid the education of both. This international exchange became a defining characteristic of CINF’s work.
Then, in the Summer of 2017, CINF sent two new volunteers, again American recent college graduates, to Stepanakert, Artsakh. For three months, they taught English and forged friendships with the local Armenian-Christians. Their results were remarkable and confirmed CINF’s path. After that summer, the Board of CINF determined to concentrate the bulk of its international efforts in Artsakh, which promised a deep and fruitful relationship between Christians. What began as a small scale initiative to teach local Artsakhtsi English eventually grew into CINF’s Summer Language Program, which graduated more than 200 students as of 2019.
In 2019, Italian artisans and businessmen joined the American team at work in Artsakh to establish a Vocational Program. The first master-craftsmen, two tailors and one carpenter, traveled to Artsakh in the fall of 2021 to begin a series of vocational workshops. Future initiatives will include internships and a senior-year laboratory experience.
In 2021, CINF founded the Antonia Arslan Armenian-Italian Hamalir. By working directly with the communities, it serves, CINF ensures a mutual exchange between its volunteers from around the world and its partners from within the communities it serves. This provides CINF, through its volunteers on the ground, first-hand knowledge of the unique challenges each community faces. Based on this understanding, CINF prepares programs tailored to meet these challenges. CINF then partners with the community, through government offices, schools, and the everyday citizen, to see these plans successfully actualized and developed. Through working with the community, CINF ensures Middle and Near Eastern Christians are prepared to face their own challenges, in the present and the future. Because of this focus upon teamwork, CINF delivers effective and long-term solutions to the problems that threaten Middle Eastern and Near Eastern Christians.