Aug 06 - Back to Armenia | Mission East

Aug 06 - Back to Armenia

Kim Hartzner together with his family

Mission East’s Managing Director is moving to Armenia with his family for a year, to lead our programmes there. Armenia was a ‘pioneer’ country for Mission East, early in the organisation’s history. And for Kim, who took part in distributing the first relief supplies there in the early 90s, the Armenia projects are especially close to his heart. 

By Morten Østervang, Mission East journalist

In 1980 Kim Hartzner visited Armenia for the first time on holiday, while Armenia was at peace. He probably would not have believed that only a few years later he would be arranging a large relief effort with Hercules planes, hospital equipment and food distributions in the middle of a war. Or that he would be travelling to Armenia on a regular basis during the following years, in order to promote the rights of handicapped children. Now he and his family are going one step further.
After having held overall responsibility for the organisation’s country programmes including those in Armenia for many years as Managing Director, it is now time to spend some time ‘hands on’ in the field. From August Kim will be heading Mission East’s office and programmes in Armenia.
His wife Dorte and their three sons, Philip, Peter Vincent and Alexander, are leaving their house in Holte, Denmark, for a year and moving to the Armenian capital Yerevan, where they have rented an apartment. This will be their home for the next year.

Jumping into the action
Kim has been busy these last several years building Mission East as an organisation and guiding its rapid development to an operation which stretches through offices in Copenhagen, Belgium, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Armenia as well as partners in Romania, Bulgaria and Nepal. Now it’s time for him to get closer to the action.

”I think it is healthy to get out and get the projects ‘under the skin’. And my relationship with Armenia is very special,” explains Kim.
Since 1992, during the war with neighbouring Azerbaijan, Kim has been to Armenia over 20 times. During the war, Mission East implemented its first major relief distribution. Right after the war Kim, who is trained as a doctor, quickly saw the huge need of the country’s disabled. 
Desperate conditions for the disabled
Thousands of disabled children were kept in dismal conditions in institutions, without adequate care or education and were perceived as a disgrace. At the same time the country’s economy and infrastructure had been serious damaged, which made change difficult.
“There were only a few organisations helping in Armenia. The country is desperately poor following the war. For Mission East Armenia was also a ‘pioneer’ country. This was where we first started our work,” explains Kim, who is aiming to be able to speak Armenian by November.
At the same time a couple of the projects have a medical element, which makes it especially interesting for Kim who is a doctor. But in the daily work he will primarily be tasked with the overall management of the country office and the 8 employees. However, there will also be a little time for the work of the Managing Director to continue. Kim will keep his hand on the reins of the organisation, retaining his Managing Director position, but with a reduced workload.
During Kim’s absence Vice Managing Director Peter Blum Samuelsen will take charge of the day-to-day organisational management from Copenhagen, while Kim will oversee long term, strategic decisions.
It is a poor country the family is heading for, explains Kim.
“After the end of the war in1994 the country was in ruins. Out of 3 million citizens, only an estimatet 1.8 million remain. Many have simply fled and these are often the educated.”
At the same time the largest neighbour, Turkey, continues a blockade which hinders Armenian exports and economic recovery is not as fast as hoped.
With a whole new country to get to know, one thing is certain - the Hartzners are in for an exciting year.

From Mission East's magazine September 2006