This has to be the accomplishment we're most proud of. ARK’s very first project was the construction of our eco-camp, the first of many we hope to build in the region. Thanks to the generosity of Dundee Precious Metals Kapan, we were able to obtain a large quantity of scrap materials that were recycled and used as the basis for the eco-camp. Construction and installation of all the facilities (running water, bathroom with shower, kitchen, electricity) was completed in July 2015 and soon after we hosted our first guests! Our current ARK Bridge Project will build a 2nd eco-camp in the village of Arajadzor, which will act as an ideal rest point for hikers coming from Tatev to Kapan.
2. We hosted over 20 international volunteers.
Here at ARK, we feel so blessed to have hosted and worked with over 20 volunteers from around the world, in just our first year! Whether it was through Workaway or WWOOF, ARK received a lot of interest from people willing to help develop ecotourism in Kapan! Our volunteers helped created the ARK website, produced our first promo video, helped mark hiking trails, assisted with construction works and worked to bring organic farming techniques to the camp. If you love being outdoors, working with your hands and experiencing gorgeous landscapes, then ARK would love to host you! In fact, you can also volunteer with us through Birthright Armenia and Armenian Volunteer Corps!
3. We launched 2 crowdfunding campaigns.
We launched our first crowdfunding campaign in June of 2015. We didn't reach our goal, but our efforts were still worthwhile, as more people heard about our efforts and we actually gained some important team members who are working with us in our current campaign!!! In May we began another crowdfunding campaign to create the first hiking trail network in the region. Even though we again didn’t reach our goal, we never stopped working on our goal to make Syunik a hiking paradise.
4. We marked and mapped over 30km of hiking trail.
Despite very limited funds and barely any budget, our incredible team of volunteers has been able to mark and map over 30 km of hiking trails to some of the region’s most iconic features!
5. We participated in Peace Corp's Border 2 Border hike.
In June, ARK also participated in Border 2 Border, a U.S. Peace Corps sponsored 21-day hike across Armenia with educational stops in villages to promote healthy living and a clean environment. ARK hosted Peace Corps volunteers in Arajadzor and joined the group from Kapan until Tatev. Recently, ARK has been selected as the responsible organization for future Border 2 Border activities in southern Armenia.
6. We harvested food ourselves from our own organic farms.
In August, we hosted our first volunteer from Birthright Armenia and started a cooperative partnership with La Terre en Marche, an organization spreading environmental awareness from Europe to China. This year, we also had rich harvests in both of our organic gardens in Kapan and Arajadzor. August and October were spent harvesting together with our volunteers. Our goal is for every eco-camp to be able to provide healthy, organically grown food for our volunteers, guests and fellow citizens. ARK will also use our eco-camp as a model to showcase permaculture practices to the community and encourage sustainable farming techniques.
7. We made it official.
In June, ARK was officially registered as nonprofit nongovernmental organization – ARK Ecological NGO! In July, ARK purchased the adjacent plot to our eco-camp. This was done to expand the capacity of the eco-camp while also having more space to develop organic farming under permaculture standards. Towards the end of the year, we gained crucial support from local and regional authorities for our ARK Bridge Project. We have received a letter of support from the Kapan Municipality and a letter of approval from the Syunik Marzpetaran. All of our success is thanks to the hard work from everyone involved with ARK.
We want to give a HUGE thanks to everyone who made their mARK with us! Thanks to the volunteers who dedicated their time and effort to building a sustainable future here in Kapan, to our donors and sponsors who made our work possible, to our friends, families and to everyone who stood alongside us as we brought a new way of environmental thinking to the region.