David Snell: Armenia’s 10th anniversary celebration truly a special occasion

David Snell: Armenia’s 10th anniversary celebration truly a special occasion

(Photo: From left: Sheilla Snell, Abie Alexander and David Snell)

Fuller Center President David Snell recently returned from Armenia, where he joined with Fuller Center supporters from the United States and in-country leadership to mark the 10-year anniversary of the covenant partner joining the ranks of The Fuller Center for Housing — a period that has seen more than 650 Armenian families helped into simple, decent homes. Below, President Snell chats with Director of Communications Chris Johnson about the celebration. Later, check out a galley of photos from the event provided by Fuller Center Armenia, and be sure to read this account of the celebration from Panorama>>AM.

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U.S. Embassy’s Helping Hands in Armenia continue decade-long tradition

U.S. Embassy’s Helping Hands in Armenia continue decade-long tradition

The Fuller Center for Housing of Armenia is celebrating its 10th year of operation in 2018 — a decade that has seen it complete more than 630 homes in a land rich with history and beauty but also plagued by housing and economic problems.

One of the organizations that annually supports The Fuller Center’s work in Armenia is the U.S. Embassy’s Helping Hands organization. This year the group helped the Gabrielyan family in the  Gegharkunik region’s Zovaber village.

Click here for the complete story, and be sure to check out a slideshow from the build below:

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FAITH IN ACTION: Building with Armenian families strengthens ties to homeland

FAITH IN ACTION: Building with Armenian families strengthens ties to homeland

(This is the latest installment of our “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story of how involvement with The Fuller Center has impacted your faith, please let us know at this link.)

As an Armenian-American, Barbara Hovsepian has always felt a strong connection to her family’s homeland. Eleven trips to Armenia to help build decent homes for families in need have strengthened those ties even more.

She returned to Fuller Center Global Builders team leadership last year and is planning to lead another team in July. Leading home builds in Armenia is becoming an annual tradition once again after missing seven years in a battle with breast cancer. It’s a refreshing return to action for the 74-year-old whose first build trip to Armenia was in 2002.

“Every evening when I say my prayers, I thank God for the multitude of blessings He has given me — including a secure home for all my 74 years,” she said. “When I can help provide that for a family in Armenia I feel I am paying it forward. I chose Armenia because I am Armenian-American and grew up in the Armenian Church. I have faith in God, love of my heritage, and charity through The Fuller Center.”

That heritage truly came alive in 1971, when she joined her father and grandmother on a trip to then-Soviet Armenia to visit her grandmother’s brother.

“My father and I walked across a bridge over the river there, and he pointed and said, ‘I used to play down there,'” she recalled. Later, when she made her first service trip to Armenia with her daughter in 2002, they walked across that same bridge. “I pointed it out to my daughter and said, ‘Your grandfather used to play right there.’ I have that strong attachment.”

In the years to come, she has seen many parents share bonding experiences with their children during build weeks in Armenia.

“They love the parent-child experience,” she said. “They love showing their children who have been raised in the comfort of this country what their homeland is experiencing. They can see away from the big city of Yerevan how people live in the villages and how, with so little, they have as happy and loving a home life as we have here. It’s our similarities, not our disparities, that draw us to each other.”

Mostly, though, it is the Armenian people who keep Hovsepian coming back to serve.

“I like the idea of working directly with the people you’re helping,” she said. “So many times, especially in the Armenian community, people are very doubtful whether their donations go where they are supposed to go. I knew that I would be seeing the people that my money was helping. You work alongside the people who are benefiting from this, and it’s very rewarding. It’s always been a happy experience. We all come away feeling that it was a good day’s work. You come home exhausted but exhilarated.”

It’s not just the Armenian homeowners that keep Hovsepian coming back. It’s also The Fuller Center of Armenia’s leadership team, led by President Ashot Yeghiazaryan.

“The Fuller Center staff are the same basic group of people that I know, love and thoroughly trust,” she said. “They make it so easy for me to be a team leader. They really go out of their way to help me. My daughter has said, ‘Why don’t we try a different country this year?’ But I just can’t abandon Fuller Center in Armenia.”

Barbara Hovsepian is raising money
to build another home in Armenia.
Click here if you would like to donate to her fundraiser!


FAITH IN ACTION: Manuelians’ work in Armenia comes full-circle with a big surprise

FAITH IN ACTION: Manuelians’ work in Armenia comes full-circle with a big surprise

(This is part of The Fuller Center’s new “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story to share for the series, please let us know at this link.)

Was it a case of providential confluence, divine intervention or pure coincidence? Leo Manuelian doesn’t know the answer to the question, but he is grateful for the surprise experience he had while leading a Fuller Center Global Builders project in Armenia this past summer — an event that revived memories of his first Armenian build.

Leo and his wife, Sona (pictured above), have been helping families have simple, decent places to live in Armenia since 2003. It has become a summer tradition for the couple, although Sona was unable to make the trip in 2017.

The Manuelians’ first experience in 2003 was helping a man whose family lived in a domik — a large metal shipping container in which the Soviet Union had intended as temporary housing for families affected by the massive 1988 earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people. The Soviet Union soon collapsed, though, and Armenia was on its own. Three decades later, many families still live in those domiks.

The patriarch of the family was hopeful that the new house would encourage one of his sons who had fled to The Netherlands to come home. He also wanted his younger son to have a decent home into which he could bring a bride. It is Armenian tradition for the youngest son to stay in the family home to raise his own family and take care of his parents as they age. They then inherit the home. But that tradition is difficult to maintain when the family lives in a domik.

“His younger son was not going to get married because they lived in a steel container, and where’s he going to bring a wife to?” Manuelian recalled a day after shoveling heavy snow at his home in River Vale, New Jersey. “A steel container and take care of his parents from a steel container? If it wasn’t for that, he wouldn’t have had any grandchildren from that son, and there wouldn’t have been a family unit there. The work that we do there, it goes forth for generations. It truly does.”

This past summer, he saw that work go forth in a way he never expected. Late in the build week, volunteer coordinator Gohar Vardanyan told him that the young mother of three whose family was the homeowner partners this trip also worked on that first home in 2003. That home was for her uncle, and she was a 12-year-old girl who worked as hard as anyone on that site to help her extended family.

“It was just an incredibly gratifying moment,” Manuelian said. “We were eating lunch, and Gohar said ‘I have some good news for you.’ My face lit up. I couldn’t believe it — to help two generations of one family, that I’d been going there that long and that she remembered me from the age of 12. It was just an incredible feeling.”

It was no premeditated plan by The Fuller Center’s local team in Armenia to link the Manuelians’ first and most recent build experiences.

“The houses are selected by the Fuller people after they go through the vetting process, and it wasn’t until the third or fourth day that I was there that Gohar came to me and told me,” he said. “She didn’t know to begin with. So it wasn’t planned that way. It could have been coincidence or it could have been divine intervention — I have no idea.”

Manuelian was thrilled to see the mother of three have a decent home, just like her uncle, especially now that she has a fourth on the way. But he had to be coaxed into revisiting the home of her uncle, even after she invited him to visit Manuelian on the final day of her home build.

“He wanted to show me how happy he was in his home, but I didn’t want to go back,” he said. “I didn’t want him to remember what it was like before. I wanted him basically to forget about me.”

He relented, though, when Fuller Center Armenia President Ashot Yeghiazaryan pressed him.

“I sensed that I was putting Ashot in an awkward position because he had this weird look on his face when I said that I didn’t want to go back,” Manuelian said. “So I said OK.”

And he’s glad he did. He even saw the old steel container that had once been the family’s home. They sold it to a neighbor and could still see it from their Fuller Center home. Their neighbor uses it to store winter hay. Unfortunately, the son who left for The Netherlands never returned.

“We had a nice talk,” Manuelian said. “His children had married. He had five grandchildren around him and brought a couple with his wife to the dinner that the Fuller people prepared. We sat down, had a few drinks and reminisced. We’re both getting old. But it was just a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

Leo and Sona Manuelian will continue their annual tradition of helping Armenian families build homes June 11-18 of this year when they lead yet another Fuller Center Global Builders trip. If you’d like to join them, there are still slots available. Visit our Upcoming Global Builders Trips page to learn more.

Hear from Leo Manuelian and volunteers on the 2017 trip and see the family they helped in this video from Fuller Center Armenia:


Gallery featuring Leo and Sona Manuelian’s work in Armenia:

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Professor uses Global Builders trips to broaden students’ perspective

Professor uses Global Builders trips to broaden students’ perspective

For Associate Professor of Business and Economics Henrique Cezar, Fuller Center Global Builders trips are more than just a chance for his students from Vermont’s Johnson State College to practice civic engagement and do some good in the world. They also are an opportunity to expose the students to diversity and cultural differences.

After leading students on Fuller Center Global Builders trips to Thailand, Nicaragua and, last year, Armenia, Cezar will take his team to work with The Fuller Center’s covenant partner in Trivandrum, India, this coming May.

Johnson State College’s student newspaper, Basement Medicine, has an outstanding piece about this service trip, featuring interviews with Cezar and students who will be making the trip.

Click here to read the complete article

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia attends blessing for home he and others helped build

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia attends blessing for home he and others helped build

In September, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard M. Mills Jr. and volunteers from the U.S. Embassy’s Helping Hands volunteer organization helped the Petrosyan family of Aghavnatun village in Armenia’s Armavir region build a new home. Last week, Ambassador Mills and volunteers were on hand at a blessing ceremony for the Petrosyan family’s new home.

“Our partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Armenia goes a long way,” Fuller Center for Housing Armenia President Ashot Yeghiazaryan said. “This partnership once again proves that humanity does not recognize borders. When people join forces with good will and hearts full of love, everything becomes possible. The result is the happiness of these people. We are happy to share in their joy.”

“Volunteering is a way of life for many American families, and it’s so meaningful to be able to continue this tradition in Armenia,” Ambassador Mills said.

For complete coverage of the house blessing, click here.

Slideshow from the house blessing:

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U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Helping Hands group assist family building new home

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Helping Hands group assist family building new home

Click here to view a slideshow from the workday.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard M. Mills, Jr. and volunteers from the U.S. Embassy’s Helping Hands organization continued an annual tradition by joining the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia team Saturday in Aghavnatun village of Armavir region to help build a home for Petrosyan family. Within a few hours the volunteers finished concreting the floors, a huge step forward for the family.

It’s the eighth year the U.S. Embassy team has joined forces with the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia to build homes for Armenian families in need of decent housing.

The Petrosyans have lived in a metal container since 1995. They have lived in a small room with no bathroom and no kitchen — just a small bedroom without proper roofing and flooring. In 2015, they finally were able to build the walls of their own house but could not afford to finish it.

“It is so hard to live in such housing conditions,” said Mariam, the family matriarch. “My health problems don’t allow me to work harder, but my husband and I have done our best to create decent housing conditions for our son. The rats and snakes were the permanent ‘inhabitants’ of the house. Now, I am so happy that there is a hope that finally we will have a home.”

“I am honored to join you all today to meet the Petrosyan family,” Ambassador Mills said. “They have shown true hospitality to all The Fuller Center volunteers and to those of us from the U.S. Embassy as we come together in a true spirit of partnership and friendship — people helping their brothers and sisters build a better life. This build site today is an example of what we can achieve when we join hands, Americans and Armenians to achieve our common goals.”

“Housing is a basic human right that is vital in everyone’s life and I am glad that we are united in our conviction and dedication to making a difference in the lives of families in housing need,” Fuller Center for Housing Armenia President Ashot Yeghiazaryan said.

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Slideshow from Saturday’s workday

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Fuller Center Armenia builds 600th home with help of Christian Youth Mission to Armenia

Fuller Center Armenia builds 600th home with help of Christian Youth Mission to Armenia


NOTE: The Fuller Center builds exclusively with private donations, not government funds. Therefore, your generosity makes these success stories possible. Click here to give.


For The Fuller Center for Housing of Armenia, each year seems to bring another milestone. That’s what happens when you’re the busiest Fuller Center partner in the world.

Earlier today, the Christian Youth Mission to Armenia (CYMA) helped mark the construction of the 600th Fuller Center home by working with our Armenian partners to help the Miinasyan family of Dvin Village in the Arara region build a simple, decent and safe new home.

Nearly three decades since a devastating earthquake struck the historic country, many families are still dealing with the lingering effects of that disaster and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which ruled the country at the time of the quake but soon fell apart, leaving many broken promises of rebuilding.

Until now, the Minasyan family has been living with family father Arsen’s parents and brothers with 16 members total crammed into one small house. Soon, they will be moving into this nearly complete home.

“The Fuller Center for Housing Armenia has crossed another milestone building their 600th house,” Fuller Center President David Snell said today. “This shows what can happen when a dedicated leadership team develops a phenomenal support base and gets to work! Congratulations to the Armenia staff and to all of the volunteers and donors who have made this possible.”

The Fuller Center of Armenia has a strong leadership team on the ground that has cultivated numerous partnerships to support its work. It also receives consistent support from Armenian-Americans and is a popular destination for Fuller Center Global Builders volunteer experiences.

“Fuller Center Armenia continues to show why they’re a leader among all the Fuller Centers around the world, constantly seeking and finding ways to partner with more and more families,” said Ryan Iafigliola, Fuller Center Director of Field Operations, who joined President Snell and others in Armenia last year for the international Millard Fuller Legacy Build shortly after Armenia dedicated its 500th home. “We’re so proud of all that they have accomplished.”

A volunteer’s perspective

Jackie El Chemmas recently returned from a Global Builders trip to Armenia with a group from her church, St. John Armenian Church of Greater Detroit. Volunteer groups from the church have built 21 of those 600 homes, including the milestone 500th home last year.

“They need the help, and I’m doing my part — my itsy-bitsy part — but we’re building a home every year,” she said, adding that the Armenian Fuller Center’s leadership makes the experience productive. “They’re fantastic. The whole setup is just fantastic. If there’s ever a problem, they handle it.”

She also sees how the week of serving others in their homeland makes her church stronger and builds faith — something church groups always report from such faith-in-action service opportunities in Armenia and elsewhere with The Fuller Center.

“It makes us stronger, and it makes them have a stronger sense of identity with other Armenians, she said. “We definitely have ties to our heritage, no doubt about it. When we go, we don’t feel like we’re in a strange place. It’s ours. We take ownership of Armenia.”

And those ties do not fade. In fact, she already has made plans for next year. Moments before she spoke with The Fuller Center today, El Chemmas said she received a call from a friend wanting to know about next year’s trip.

“She said, ‘I already have 12 people who want to go, so don’t take any more people with you next year,'” El Chemmas said with a laugh. “Plus, my husband will go, and one other person is going, so I’m already booked up for next year.

“The Fuller Center really does good, and we thank you.”

And The Fuller Center, of course, thanks all of the volunteers, supporters and leaders who make these success stories possible.

If you would like to learn more about Global Builders opportunities in Armenia — two upcoming trips are now accepting volunteers — click here.

Your contributions make our work possible.
Click here to give. Thank you!

Slideshow of CYMA’s work July 27-28 in Armenia:

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