15 Year-Old Ishkhan: `What will I do if I stay here?'
Marine Madatyan

19:26, September 28, 2012

Marlen Arakelyan was just finishing canning some vegetables for the
winter when we entered her house in the Gegharkounik village of Ayrk.

Neighbors had arrived to assist with the chores.

"She's like my mother, always ready to help out when necessary,"
Marlen said, pointing to her elderly neighbor.

Marlen's a single mom raising two sons, Ishkhan and Sevak. She lost
her husband one year ago. Neighbors do the best they can to lend a
helping hand but are powerless to improve the poor living conditions
faced by Marlen and her boys.

The family's only income is a 35,000 AMD monthly pension.

Marlen has relatives in Vardenis and most of the vegetables for
canning come from her niece in the town. Marlen says that she too
would like to live in Vardenis, even if it meant working as a cleaning
lady in one of the stores. "There's absolutely no work in the
village," she says.

Her youngest son Sevak is in the ninth grade. On the day we visited
the boy hadn't gone to school because he had ripped his shoes.
Luckily, the boy has received periodic aid from the World Vision
organization. Marlen still hasn't paid for Sevak's school books.

Marlen told us that one day World Vision doctors had visited the
village and provided free medical check-ups. She says they diagnosed
Sevak with a bone disease and recommended that he go to Yerevan for
further tests.

"I have no money to take the boy," she says and points to the cracks
in the walls. Marlen says that she's taken out a loan in order to buy
dried cow dung to use as winter fuel.

"The creditor comes around every day for the money. It's a lot of
money, some 60,000," she tells us.

Hrant Davtyan, principal of the village school, told us that Sevak
wouldn't be left without the textbooks he needs.

"Last year Sevak regularly attended class. This year, the family's
situation has deteriorated. But I've told my staff to provide the boy
with books even if they can't pay," Davtyan told us.

Marlen married off her daughter at the young age of 17 and says it was
out of economic necessity.

"They came and asked for her and I consented. What else could I do. At
least she living normally in Vardenis," says Marlen.

15 year-old Ishkhan got angry when his mother showed us his worn-out
shoes. The boy will graduate next year but told us that he only goes
to class once or twice a month. He'd rather work and make some extra

When he works cutting cow dung, harvesting potatoes and hay, the boy
can make from 2,000 - 5,000 a day. The teenager says that he has no
intention of staying in Armenia and will go to Russia.

"What will I do if I stay here?" asks Ishkhan, who seems determined in
his decision to leave. "I have a relative in Russia. He said tell me
as soon as you get your passport."