Origins

  Dr. Antonio Montalto who is the director of ‘Family Care’ first came to Spitak in February 1989 as one of the medical support personnel working in Italian village during the beginnings of construction after the earthquake. He remained for 6 months in that program and then returned to Spitak in 1994 as Coordinator of a continued Italian Humanitarian assistance program to Spitak. As coordinator he supported projects in Italian village particularly the development of the Mother and Child health centre. It was in 1994 that he also established the Art School as a creative and cultural centre for the children of Spitak. For two years there were 3 permanent teachers and the school was supported financially by contributions from ICU, the European community and UNDP. Antonio also organised language courses and summer music events.   

  In addition as coordinator of ICU (Italian Coorporation of Universities) in Armenia, he implemented several  other support programmes for families in the earthquake zone. The projects included rehabilitation of 2 hospitals, the building of a flour mill which became a community run industry, the development of an agricultural enterprise for poultry breeding and the distribution of farming tools to poor families with small land plots.

  In 1997 Feed the Children’s assistance program was stopped and our offices were closed in Armenia. At that time Antonio asked me if I would like to join ICU. During the next year we developed Mother and Child Health support programmes in other regions in Armenia. In addition to these programmes Antonio continued to support the Spitak Mother and Child health centre as well as the Art school.

  Most of these programmes were funded by various bilateral and multilateral donors including the United Nations and the European Community. However major donors have reduced their budgets and the European Community Humanitarian Office finally left Armenia in 1998.

  In 1997 ICU offered Antonio another position in Rome and after 4 years of work here, he decided to consider it. However, the projects during 1997 began to expand rapidly and Antonio was also appointed Consul Correspondent in Armenia by the Italian Embassy in Moscow.  Due to these events he wished to continue his work here. He also developed an interest in assisting Nagorno Karabagh which had suffered terribly during 4 years of war with Azerbaijan. ICU discontinued assistance to Spitak in 1997.   Antonio requested ICU to support him running a separate program for Nagorno Karabagh . Like many organisations they were reluctant to do so as Karabagh has always been a very political issue since it declared unrecognised independence and few organisations are prepared to work there.

  Antonio completed his work with ICU in April 1998 though he continued to support them officially until the end of the year when the offices were closed in Armenia.

  The Veratsnund (Renaissance) Art School provided an oasis of hope for the people of Italian Village where many people had remained with deep emotional and psychological problems which were compounded by the poor living conditions and unemployment. The most important aim of the School from its beginning had been to provide therapy through art. To be able to create something beautiful with friends in a warm and welcoming environment had immeasurable psychological advantage. It was in the Art School that the young people were able to find respite from the harsh reality of life in post earthquake Spitak.