Today, National Book Day, it seems fitting that not one but TWO publishing companies have invested in Ruby and Erik. Thank you Sandra at New Bay Books and Peter at Medina Publishing. Thank you for knowing that book learning is valuable and important and life-changing: worth paying for.
Ruby and Erik are students at LCC, an English-language University in Lithuania. They are not Lithuanian, but Armenian. English is their third language. They have travelled far away from their war-torn homeland because they want to make the best of themselves, learning alongside bright, ambitious young people from more than 50 countries. They worked hard to secure their places here.
Ruby is studying international relations. Erik is studying contemporary communications. I know them both. Ruby is spunky and original and brave. She could be a future head of the UN. Erik is persistent and passionate and since he went to Lithuania he looks younger, less strained, happy. One day he’ll invent Twitter or Reddit 2.0.
I have been to Ruby’s home on a large but bleak village right on the Armenian border with Turkey. A forbidding wall of wire surrounds one side of the village, making sure no child or animal strays into a narrow stretch of no man’s land. Most of the roads in the village are made of compacted dirt. Ruby’s mum is a teacher. Her dad farms– but COVID and war and the collapse of the Armenian economy means he no longer brings home a wage. Ruby has a little brother and sister–twins. Her grandma keeps an eye on them while her mum goes out to work.
I haven’t been to Erik’s home which is in the north of Armenia, close to the border with Georgia. I know his dad is disabled and can’t work. His mother is busy every minute of the day but earns no wage at home.
$6100 is what it costs to keep Ruby or Erik at LCC for a year. That covers tuition fees, books, dormitory, meals and one flight a year home. In a country where the average wage is $3 a day it is a fortune–beyond the reach even of families with two wage earners. Compared to the cost of study in the US or the UK it is a snip. A bargain.
Ruby and Erik are proud people and so are their parents. The concept of shame–amot— runs very deep in Armenia. They all hate that they have to ask you for money. They wouldn’t do it if education wasn’t all-important– these bright sparks’ only chance of reaching their full potential and making a self-sustaining, fulfilling future for themselves.
We have raised about a fifth of the $12,100 needed to keep both kids in college in the next academic year. If you can find $6 — the wages for two days work in Armenia– will you give it to Ruby and Erik? You can choose to contribute via Go Fund Me or FaceBook. This national book day let’s keep these noses in those books. Thank you.