Today we began the service portion of our trip. We've divided ourselves into four groups that will be rotating between FAR's soup kitchen and the Ounjian school. At the soup kitchen, participants helped prepare a meal for the elderly residents of Gyumri. The kitchen provides food for 200 people each day. For most of its beneficiaries, that is the only meal they will be eating all day. Across town, other ASP-ers assisted in renovating the Ounjian school. They spent the day plastering walls. Eventually, they will sand and paint them.
Armenia is divided into different regions called marzes. Think of them as the equivalents of states in America. Gyumri, which is still commoly referred to by its soviet name, Leninakan, is located in Shirak Marz. Immediately after retuning from our work site, we met with the Bishop of Shirak, Mikayel Ajapahyan, at St. Mary's Church, or Soorp Astvatzatzin.
The Shirak Diocese's youth center is located right across the street. ASP-ers ventured over and met local youth who are involved in activities similiar to our own in the United States. The group organizes local charity events and travel on retreats and pilgrimages. The center is a spot where young people can hang out, watch movies, and hold events.