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Project provides sustainable income to mothers of disabled children in Armenia

Ardook household assistant provides much needed daily services and sustainable incomes for mothers of disabled children in Armenia.

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A woman irons clothes in a living room
Ardook, a social enterprise launched in 2022, currently operates in Yerevan, Armenia, and has won two grants from European Union

There are about 240 million children with disabilities – one in 10 children. Across the three-million populated Republic of Armenia, the latest data shows 8,771 officially registered children with disabilities (CwD). Of the over 86,000 families in Armenia receiving family and social benefits, 2,933 are families with a child with disabilities, and 2,726 are single mothers.

As sole caretakers of their disabled children, single mothers are at a disadvantage when it comes to securing flexible jobs to supplement their meager state-provided pensions.

Now one social enterprise is shifting that paradigm!

“At Ardook we believe that everyone should have the opportunity for a decent life,” says Shogher Atanesyan, Founder and CEO of Armenia-based Ardook (ironing) Household Assistant–social enterprise which launched last year and provides sustainable income to single mothers with disabled children.

Ardook team
Ardook team with Founder, Shogher Atanesyan (in red dress).

A certified project manager, with over a decade of retail management experience in four countries, Ardook is Atanesyan’s third social impact project. “I hate ironing and love designing projects with social impact,” she explains.

Serving both residential and commercial customers, Ardook currently has five mothers/employees–with another five in training. All employees train with industry-standard washing, drying and ironing techniques and work from home and care for their disabled children. Two of the five employees have multiple disabled children with disabilities ranging from severe autism to cerebral palsy to blindness.

Ardook offers daily washing, drying and ironing services to over 160 customers who regularly, or on occasion, request services received via Facebook and Instagram. Individuals crunched for time, and commercial businesses like such restaurants as Ankyun and Avocado Queen in Yerevan (Armenia’s capital city), and owners of apartment rentals in need of clean daily linens value Ardook’s personalized customer service. 

Once requests are received, couriers pick up the items and deliver it to the five employees. Up to five kilograms of clothes/linen items are serviced overnight–there’s a 2000+ AMD ($5) fee for each kilogram. They assign each customer to a specific mother and overloads are usually divided between the employees to meet the 24-hour turnaround deadline. Couriers pick up and deliver the clean, ironed items to the customers.

Hayk Aslanyan, who owns rental apartments in Yerevan, considers the social enterprise a “beautiful initiative.” He has contracted Ardook for nearly a year.  

“We could not be happier. When we heard of Ardook, we realized we wanted to be a part of it and haven’t regretted our decision. From the first day of our cooperation, it was impossible not to notice the love and care the whole team puts into what they do. We look forward to continuing our successful cooperation with the team,” says Aslanyan.

Providing Sustainable Income

Ardook pays employees based on the quantity of orders they service. On average, the mothers earn a monthly income of nearly $200. Minimum monthly wages in Armenia are nearly $170. 

I meet up with one of Ardook employees, Kristine Arakelyan, at the outskirts of Yerevan as we wait at a street corner for her nine-year-old son, Grigor, to be dropped off from school. As one of Ardook’s first employees, she is now a manager and coordinates all the pickup and delivery schedules. 

“We have an excellent team of mothers right now. Ninety percent of them live in rental apartments and are single mothers. We have a strong camaraderie and help each other out a lot with chores,” Arakelyan explains as a white minivan stops in front of us and a cheerful dark-haired scrawny boy is assisted out of the van and embraced with a tight hug and kisses by Arakelyan.

The government provided special needs bus is a blessing since Grigor can’t walk, eat, or perform any bodily functions without help. Besides a state provided 24,000 AMD ($60) monthly pension and 39,000 AMD (nearly $100) for Grigor, all other expenses–from rent to clothing to diapers and physical therapy are Arakelyan’s responsibility since Grigor’s father left when he was four years old–and never took much responsibility for his son’s care.

I follow the mother and son through a metal doorway and up a set of dilapidated cement stairs. Grigor walks ahead of me. Grasping the loose iron railing, he pulls himself up each stair, balancing his twisting legs as his mother walks ahead to open the door to their apartment.

Grigor is only now able to climb the stairs after a month-long muscle therapy afforded by a fundraising Ardook organized. With shortages of physical therapists–there’s a two-year waiting list for additional therapy services. 

As we enter the tight, warm apartment, Arakelyan leads us to a room where a large industrial ironing board sits at the foot of a bed against the wall. On the opposite side sits a couch and a couple of easy chairs–a TV screen sits against the wall.

Grigor drops on the couch, cradles a large plastic Coke bottle, and is totally immersed in the TV program on the screen while his mother puts on his slippers. 

“I’m Grigor’s hands and legs and life,” Arakelyan’s contagious laughter echoes in the room. Disappearing from the room, she reappears with a plate of food and takes a seat by the ironing board. Grigor walks over and leans himself against his mother as he’s fed.

Grigor and his mother
Arakelyan and Grigor at their apartment.

Arakelyan does most of her ironing while Grigor is at school or busy watching TV. She can’t work while he’s asleep since the sound disturbs him. Childcare is her full-time commitment during summer months and for most of December when school is out. But a few friends and family members help out.

Meeting UNSDG Goals

As a profitable social enterprise that fosters inclusive growth, Ardook employees receive 50% of profits. The “primary goal is to provide salaries to the mothers,” Atanasyan explains how profits are divided as bonuses between the mothers–or cover unaffordable transportation costs for the children. 

In advancing two UN Sustainable Development Goals: reducing inequalities, while providing decent work and economic growth, Ardook also adhers to eco-friendly business practices by using recycled plastic hangers and woven bags for deliveries. It has already earned international awards: Social Impact idea and the Creative Spark by the British Council in Armenia, as well as two European Union grants which afforded the purchase of a delivery car and state-of-the-art equipment for the employed mothers.

“Shogher Atanesyan’s Ardook was a well-designed social enterprise business idea that showed a firm commitment to impact a unique and deserving group in Armenia–mothers of disabled children. After going through our five-month-long training workshop mastering marketing, financial planning, business model aspects of her social enterprise, her business idea pitch was a winner at our annual Social Impact Award,” explains Gevorg Poghosyan, CEO of Impact Hub, Yerevan–a social innovation incubator, community, and space that supports promising social impact projects and enterprises with a “positive social change in Armenia and beyond.”

Spread across 1200 square meters and three floors of offices and open co-working spaces the Hub’s 360-member “community of change makers and innovators” enjoy educational workshops, mentoring, networking, valuable resources and programs that elevate projects from “idea to implementation to impact” and help “prototype a future that works for all.”

Ardook’s services are currently available only in Yerevan. But Atanesyan plans to expand to other regions in Armenia and across post-Soviet countries.

Jackie Abramian is committed to amplifying the work of women peace-builders, change makers and social entrepreneurs. She is a social enterprise advisor and the founder of Global Cadence consultancy.

Sustainability

Sky inks 10-year deal for clean energy in Scotland

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A windfarm in Scotland
Starting in 2025, Sky will receive 100 GWh annually of clean, renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm

Sky has signed a 10-year agreement with Octopus Renewables Infrastructure Trust to receive renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Under this agreement, Sky will receive the majority of renewable energy guarantees of origin (REGOs) generated from the 46 MW wind farm, which will help Sky reduce the emissions associated with its electricity use.

Starting in 2025, Sky will receive 100 GWh annually of clean, renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm, approximately 69% of the total power generated by the project. This is equivalent to approximately 34,000 UK homes’ annual electricity use. [1]

The agreement is a key part of Sky’s ongoing commitment to sourcing renewable electricity. From being the first media company to go carbon neutral in 2006, to launching the world’s first auto standby set top box – Sky has been committed to decarbonising its business for more than 15 years.

“This agreement is evidence of Sky’s commitment to reducing our environmental impact. We source the majority of our electricity in the UK from renewable energy and this long-term project in Lanarkshire provides us with lasting clean energy for years to come. As a media and entertainment company, we are determined to use our voice to help the media sector and the UK more broadly decarbonise,” acknowledges Fiona Ball, Group Director of the Bigger Picture and Sustainability at Sky.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2022, renewable energy supply from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and ocean rose by close to 8%, meaning that the share of these technologies in total global energy supply increased by close to 0.4 percentage points.

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Sustainability

Last day to enter the EU Organic awards

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Last day to enter the EU Organic awards
The EU Organic Awards was first held in 2022 | Photo: Zoe Schaeffer

Organic food producers in the EU will have until the end of the day to enter the EU Organic Awards 2024. It is the third year that the initiative will be offering a platform to a winner highlight excellence and innovation in the sector. The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030.

The awards are organised by European Commission, with the EESC, the European Committee of the Regions, COPA-COGECA and IFOAM Organics Europe. The EESC supervises the nomination, shortlisting and award process for three categories: best organic food processing SME, best organic food retailer and best organic restaurant/food service.

“The EU Organic Awards give a recognition to the innovation, passion and dedication of those who truly champion organic food and production in the EU and bring it closer to everyday consumers,” says EESC President Oliver Röpke.

Last year’s winners from the categories for which the EESC supervises have also joined forces to encourage businesses to seek recognition.

Kevin Scully, whose business The Merry Mill was awarded the prize for the best organic food processing SME, urged companies to nominate themselves: “I recommend other businesses to apply for the Organic Awards because it’s very good for a company’s profile and brings a great endorsement.”

Paul Kolarik, head of Austrian eatery Kolarik im Prater that won the best organic restaurant award, said: “Winning the Organic Awards generated great interest in our business from the national media. Thanks to the awards, new collaborations have also emerged and many political representatives became aware of our commitment to the organic and sustainability sector.”

The awards ceremony takes place on 23 September 2024, which is the EU Organic Day.

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Sustainability

Applications open for the EU Organic awards 2024

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Applications open for the EU Organic awards 2024
The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030 | Photo: Gregory Hayes

Organic food producers in the EU will have until May 12th to enter the EU Organic Awards 2024. It is the third year that the initiative will be offering a platform to a winner highlight excellence and innovation in the sector. The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030.

The awards are organised by European Commission, with the EESC, the European Committee of the Regions, COPA-COGECA and IFOAM Organics Europe. The EESC supervises the nomination, shortlisting and award process for three categories: best organic food processing SME, best organic food retailer and best organic restaurant/food service.

“The EU Organic Awards give a recognition to the innovation, passion and dedication of those who truly champion organic food and production in the EU and bring it closer to everyday consumers,” says EESC President Oliver Röpke.

Last year’s winners from the categories for which the EESC supervises have also joined forces to encourage businesses to seek recognition.

Kevin Scully, whose business The Merry Mill was awarded the prize for the best organic food processing SME, urged companies to nominate themselves: “I recommend other businesses to apply for the Organic Awards because it’s very good for a company’s profile and brings a great endorsement.”

Paul Kolarik, head of Austrian eatery Kolarik im Prater that won the best organic restaurant award, said: “Winning the Organic Awards generated great interest in our business from the national media. Thanks to the awards, new collaborations have also emerged and many political representatives became aware of our commitment to the organic and sustainability sector.”

The awards ceremony takes place on 23 September 2024, which is the EU Organic Day.

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