States News Service
January 27, 2012 Friday

The following information was released by the Peace Corps:

Peace Corps volunteers John Hart of Fayetteville, Ark., and Caroline
Lucas of Cary, N.C., helped launch a women-owned small business in
Armenia selling and producing handmade stuffed bears. Since the Berd
Bear project started in March 2011, the women have sold 230 bears,
and generated thousands of dollars.

"Soon after conceiving the idea, we began producing handcrafted Berd
Bears non-stop, including personalized accessories and clothing,"
said Hart, a graduate of the University of Arkansas. "This project
has been so successful, and I directly attribute that success to the
dedication of the women."

When Hart arrived in northeastern Armenia in 2010, he worked with his
new community to identify income-generating projects for local women.

Hart soon helped create the Berd Women's Resource Center Foundation
(BWRCF) for women to knit stuffed bears and sell them regionally.

Each stuffed bear is handmade from start to finish by members of the
group. The bear's head, body, legs and arms are created using Armenian
knitting techniques and assembled by a group of women who stuff and
sew it together. Button eyes, a nose, and a mouth are then added,
and the bear is dressed in either standard or traditional Armenian
clothing. Male bears wear knitted sweaters and hand-sewn slacks,
and females wear hand-sewn dresses. In total each Berd Bear requires
about 18 hours of labor.

"The women of Berd are incredibly talented and hardworking. They put a
lot of pride into their craft, which is evident in each carefully and
lovingly handmade bear," said Lucas, a graduate of Chapman University.

"As sales of the Berd Bear increase, more local Armenian women are
able to work in full-time positions with the BWRCF."

Additional income generated by sales of the Berd Bear is used to
provide members of the foundation with training classes in basic
computer skills, business development and other topics.

"Aside from the financial benefits generated by bear sales, the women
are also gaining business and leadership skills," continued Lucas.

"Now, these women can help support their families."

From: Baghdasarian