Art Zaratsyan is an experienced Armenian-Canadian video game development leader and a volunteer international humanitarian, social-documentary and world photographer.

Whenever his professional career in video game developments allows him, Art follows his passion, photography, to the farthest corners of the globe, capturing the stories of those who strive to help make a positive difference in the world.

“Art is not only a great photographer, he is a humanitarian whose compassion for the people he meets and photographs is unmistakable. In the past year, I’ve traveled with Art to a number of countries where HOPE International Development Agency works with communities struggling to lift themselves out of poverty. During these travels, and back at home, I have always been impressed by Art’s hunger and ability to connect deeply with people. For me, this is what makes his photographs powerful, and beautiful. Through Art’s lens, we have been able to show people what their support means to communities around the world. This is an incredible gift.”

— David S. McKenzie, International President, HOPE International Development Agency

The Thing With Feathers

“The Thing With Feathers” charity art show opened on Thursday, May 15th, 2014, in the beautiful Waterfall Building exhibition space in Vancouver, BC. The exhibition continued until May 23rd.

The Thing with Feathers - Art Zaratsyan The show featured over 50 colour photographs taken in Cambodia and Ethiopia as part of a self-directed documentary project about the humanitarian work of HOPE International Development Agency in developing countries. 100% of the proceeds raised by the show, nearly $12,000 CAD, were donated to HOPE.

The Thing with Feathers - Art Zaratsyan

“All proceeds from The Thing With Feathers went towards HOPE International Development Agency’s work in Cambodia and Ethiopia. Thanks to the kindness of all who took part, 12 families in Cambodia are now able to grow more rice year-round. In Ethiopia, 24 women have started small businesses and become more confident in their skills…

CAMBODIA: In 2014, HOPE International Development Agency provided seeds, tools, training, and irrigation infrastructure to help 80 families in the villages of Bakan and Kab Krorlanh to start farming dry season rice, a rice variety that grows more quickly and requires less water to grow. Previously in these villages, over 70% of families were living in poverty, and were only able to harvest rice once per year. Families were fortunate if they were able to harvest enough to feed their families, and typically they would not have any extra rice to sell and provide income for the family, leaving them in a cycle of poverty.

Through your support, families in Bakan and Kab Krorlanh have established community seed banks. The seed banks are a place for farmers to borrow seed and fertilizer to grow rice. After their harvests, families return the borrowed seed, which becomes available to others. Communities also received small water pumps to irrigate the rice during the dry season. In addition, farmers learned new sustainable agriculture techniques and how to manage their local seed banks.

These families initially planted 37.5 hectares of rice and harvested over 120 tons of rice paddy. In the next growing season, encouraged by the initial gains, farmers planted 106 hectares of rice with great success.

ETHIOPIA: In many areas of rural Ethiopia, there are few opportunities for women to earn enough money to support their families. To increase opportunities for these capable women to care for themselves, HOPE International Development Agency is helping local women to organize themselves into small self-help groups, and then access resources, training, and support through these groups. By taking part, their financial capacity is greatly improved, they increase their ownership of property, and the overall conditions of their own lives and those of their families are greatly improved. Together, they are able to achieve far more than they would have be able to on their own.

In 2014, 120 extremely vulnerable women from Adami Gotu and Dembeli Keta, communities in the Oromia Region, participated in self-help groups. Capital, in the form of goats, other livestock, or funds were provided to the groups, as well as training on saving, animal care, life skills, and personal health. Many of these women, who have never had the opportunity to learn to read or write, also participated in literacy classes. In addition, the majority of the spouses of the group members took part in training sessions to improve gender sensitivity. Afterwards, many women reported positive changes in their families. Through these activities, these women are improving their own self-sufficiency, as well as their families’ self-reliance.

Now, these women are working together to manage savings and credit, start and manage small businesses, and resolve family and local issues collaboratively. Soon, the women will “graduate” and continue to thrive independent of HOPE International Development Agency’s involvement. Approximately 400 family & community members’ lives have also been dramatically improved as a result!”

— HOPE International Development Agency, 2015 Report