Posted on July 27, 2013

by Nanore Barsoumian

The story last year about women in an Armenian border town knitting
teddy bears for their families' subsistence inspired many in the
diaspora. It seemed the bears would be unstoppable-they soon made
their way into Armenian-American homes, community centers, bazaars,
and bookstores. Now the bears are looking to make it to television
with a new mission: to teach kids in Armenia about environmental
protection. And they are asking for our help.

Archo and Arsho poster

The cast of the show are two teddy bears, Archo and Arsho. A kind
creature, Archo lives in the forest with his sidekick Meghu the
honeybee. Archo cares deeply about his surroundings, and works to keep
it clean. One day, Archo spots Arsho performing in a traveling circus
along with Titer the butterfly. And that is when their paths converge.

There are other characters as well, like Gargar the trash-loving crow,
and Djandj the fly.

"In Armenia, there are efforts to teach children the importance
of protecting the environment, but these are not widespread. They
need to be part of a larger national effort to raise awareness
on environmental issues, starting with the smallest kids. This is
where Archo and Arsho and their friends come in-sympathetic, snugly,
friendly, and, most importantly, entertaining," said Timothy Straight,
the honorary consul of Finland and Norway, and the founder of Homeland
Development Initiative Foundation (formerly Homeland Handicrafts),
an organization that supports job creation in rural Armenia.

As a five-year-old, Straight remembers admonishing his father for
littering. He hopes the show's protagonist, Archo, will instill in
kids a similar respect towards the environment. "These figures are
going to teach the new generation of Armenians, starting from the
smallest, that they personally have the power to contribute to a
cleaner, healthier Armenia," he told the Armenian Weekly. "I cannot
wait to see a dad throw his plastic bottle out on the street, only to
hear the kid say, 'Dad, Archo says you are hurting the environment!'"

Straight enlisted the help of Vrej Kassouny, a popular Armenian
animator and cartoonist, to create characters that were based on the
Berd Bears. He wants to hit two birds with one stone: raising awareness
of environmental issues and generating a steady stream of work for
the women knitters in Berd, a town near the Azerbaijani border that
suffers from a high level of unemployment, as most of the men have
either moved to Russia or been hired as a soldier at the border.

The Berd Bears are providing fair wages to around three-dozen women
in Berd. The Archo and Arsho project is the second chapter in the
life of the Berd women involved in this project.


Once the show takes off, Straight hopes the demand for the stuffed
teddies in the likeness of Archo, Arsho, and the whole gang will
also increase.

The show will be produced in Armenia, using local talent. The first
step will be to create a 9-minute pilot episode, followed by another

To finance the project, the team posted the profile on Indiegogo, a
crowd funding website. The decision to rely on the masses for support
was partly encouraged by the Berd Bears campaign on another crowd
funding site, Kickstarter, which saw $17,318 pledged by supporters

Diasporans crave positive initiatives and stories that emerge
from Armenia. That is partly why the Berd Bears did so well in the
diaspora-that, coupled with Straight's ability to realize and promote
an idea, and the Berd women's top-notch workmanship.

With the success of the Archo and Arsho show, a steady stream of
teddy bear demand will only help lift up the town and keep the
environment clean.

Support the Archo and Arsho show on Indiegogo,[insert
and receive one, two, or more of these characters knitted by the women
of Berd. The campaign will be featured on Indiegogo until Aug. 16.

To access the Weekly's earlier story on the Berd Bears, click here.


Berd Bears are available for purchase at the Hairenik Bookstore. To
order, call 617-926-3974.