Habitat team helps rebuild crumbled Armenian city

The Grand Rapids Press, MI
Aug 11 2007

Habitat team helps rebuild crumbled Armenian city

Saturday, August 11, 2007
By Paul R. Kopenkoskey
The Grand Rapids Press

WYOMING — Almost 19 years ago, an earthquake reduced all the
buildings in an area around Spitak, Armenia, to rubble.

But the rebuilding efforts tapered off when the Soviet bloc nation
lost Russia’s financial support when it declared its independence in

Humanitarian aid, including a Habitat for Humanity Global Village
team that recently journeyed to the village of Shatin, continues to
pick up the slack.

In the 14 days the team was there in July, stones were stuffed
underneath a metal roof of one home for insulation and another
received a new poured cement floor, said Susan Bosovich, leader of
the 11-member Habitat team. Bosovich made her second trip to Armenia
with her 22-year-old daughter, Alicia.

More work still needs to be done, said Susan Bosovich, of Wyoming.

"But we’ve cut down that time frame and, labor-wise, that will help
them live in their homes sooner," she said.

Bosovich said the Habitat team needed to clear some cultural hurdles.
Armenians usually want to work at a more leisurely pace, which meant
that the task-oriented Habitat team had to limit their workdays to an
average of five-and-a-half hours.

"The point was not to show our superiority, but to learn their way
and learn it as efficiently as possible," said Bosovich, 46, an
educational paraprofessional in the Kentwood school district and for
Wedgwood Christian Services.

Bosovich said Shatin is akin to a ghost town.

Many homes remain empty shells, forcing some to live in metal
shipping containers that become iceboxes in the winter and furnaces
in the summer. Water and electricity are limited, and sewer lines are

"It’s amazing to see these huge cranes that haven’t been touched in
years," Bosovich said.

But despite the hardships, the Armenians expressed their appreciation
for the team’s help with fresh mulberries, apricots, cherries
cucumbers and tomatoes during mealtime, she said.

Working in a Third World nation can open Americans’ eyes to the
reality of how blessed they are, said Bosovich.

"I’m hoping we’ll return next year," she said. "I’ve made friends in
Armenia. I want to go back and see them again."