Christopher Wilson has been awarded The Church Club’s 2017 Young Adult of the Year Service Award for his missionary work in Hatsavan, Armenia. We are excited and blessed to share Chris’ story. You can support Chris’ efforts, and the children of Hatsavan here.
“For a year, I spent my service teaching and wandering the beautiful country of Armenia as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was assigned to the region of Syunik Mars in the small rural town of Hatsavan.
Life there is simple; your children go to school, you work the fields of your ancestors and you celebrate holidays and birthdays like a true Armenian. I was invited into a warm home, with all of the food my family could provide, not truly understanding what was being offered to me when I first arrived. Living in the suburbs of Westchester, New York I never felt the burden of being a farmer, the anxiety of a next meal, or even a deep-rooted connection to the land. As Americans, we do not always feel this sense of connection because we do not know how to truly stand still. We move with the bustle and hustle of life like an addiction, having no time to rest and no time to hear the beauty of creation. Sitting at my first Horovats (Armenian BBQ), listening to the laughter and stories shared, I began to see what drives the Armenian people forward: it is a simplicity in living and a hope in a better future despite the hardships.
I began to study the joy of a people who had nothing in terms of material but had everything in terms of life.
Before the school year began, The children of Hatsavan and I set out with donkeys and carts collecting fire-wood well into the purple-hued evening. With laughter and chatter, we built a structure of wood well above our heads as the first signs of autumn moved around us. The leaves twirled and danced across the painted sky and like the leaves, the whole town came and danced. We danced and danced until thousands of stars shone over Hatsavan. As the music stopped and the fire crackled to a dim light, the crispness of the night air brought the sway of the wheat fields and the slow churning of the still lakes in the distance. A paradise indeed.
The natural and geographical paradise is real, but so is the crumbling and forgotten town of Hatsavan.
In the wake of Soviet rule, Hatsavan was left with nothing more than ancient farms, a crumbling school, and one dirt path to reach the town by taxi.
With no funding or external aid, the people of Hatsavan stand still, working day after day in turmoil with no gain. They toil over cracked and overworked earth, praying for rain, praying for someone to help them. They do not receive help because they do not know how to ask for help. So I ask, “Will you help a stranger, will you help a child learn, will you help the students of Hatsavan?” I plead for the children, hungry for a proper education; I plead for the families, imagining distant and unreachable lands; I plead for Hatsavan, a town forgotten.
The children start helping their parents work as young as 10, walking out into the fields with a scythe or sickle to make up for valuable time. Only when the food is harvested, and the fear of a scarce winter has departed, can the children attend school. It is a school with 12 classrooms, one class for each grade. Each cold classroom is filled with stained and unusable soviet books. Only the smiles of their fellow neighbors, teachers working two jobs, give them a purpose.
In the evenings, these same children play in the street with a ball to pass the time because there is no gym or recreational area to speak of. I can still see the ripped and deflated ball being tossed around for sport, clouds of dirt surrounding them.
Hatsavan is a town full of the strongest people and the kindest hearts I know and it is a town that will not be forgotten.
Before the summer of this year, I will be returning to Armenia personally to give the Hatsavan director and mayor all of the donations from my GO Fund Me and the money awarded to me from The Church Club of New York. Together we can show Hatsavan that love has no borders and that the helping hand of a neighbor is not limited to national boundaries but can extend overseas.”