Beginning in 1991, LCO embarked upon two projects in the village of Madrasa.
During the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were displaced from their homes in Azerbaijan and came to Armenia for safety. Already plagued with those left homeless after the earthquake, the Armenian government had been struggling to also provide housing for the refugees.
One of the casualties of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was a village outside Baku, Azerbaijan called Madrasa. The entire population of 600 Armenian families was removed in November of 1988 and dispersed throughout the Soviet Union. The head of this village, in typical Armenian fashion, was determined not to let this event end an existence and way of life that he had known since birth. He located 130 of the original families, who had been housed in temporary accommodations throughout Armenia, and together decided to recreate their village life-- but on Armenian soil. In November of 1990, the Refugee Committee allocated a large parcel of land on which their new village was to be created. This area was initially named New Madrasa but was renamed Dprevan, the Armenian translation of Madrasa, which means school in Arabic, Madrasa is located in the Ashdarag Region of Armenia, approximately 30 miles north of Yerevan.
The area has been divided into approximately 200 family plots. In 1991, in two years time, with the help of LCO, approximately 45 homes were built. Volunteers worked side by side with these families as they rebuilt their homes and tilled their soil. Also, here, shoveling dirt, carrying stone blocks, mixing cement, were the typical chores our volunteers.
The blockade had made the work very difficult at times, but Madrasa took on some semblance of a real village. Villagers planted trees and gardens. As a means to provide self-sufficiency for the villagers, the LCO initiated a fruit tree planting program and construction of a solar fruit dryer. When the dryer was completed in 1995, not only was it used by the residents of Madrasa but by surrounding villages as well. In 1996, the fruit was boxed and marketed for sale.
On Easter weekend a few years after completion of the fruit dryer project, eight LCO volunteers from different walks of life headed back out to Madrasa, now Dprevan. The people of the village had aged; some had left.
But overall, the spirit of the LCO still remained. This time, the Land and Culture Organization was asked by the villagers to help build a water reservoir with a pump and a shelter to secure the village with a steady access to drinking water. The plan was for the LCO volunteers and some local volunteers to build a cement pool in two days time. However, as is the case in Armenia, the work started slow but somehow, with determined energy, the work was completed at the end of the two-day campaign.
The volunteers also visited the solar fruit dryers built by fellow LCO volunteers in 1995. Today this fruit dryer is the only source of revenue generating plant in the village.
This was the first time LCO had organized a springtime campaign. The volunteers were a mix of veterans and new members. They all enjoyed the change of pace and the opportunity to return to the basics. The village and the work was a rewarding, especially since it was held of Good Friday and Good Saturday. The villagers also welcomed the presence of the young and dynamic volunteers.