Sir Timothy David Straight
Today, we feature Sir Timothy David Straight
Tim Straight was born in Cleveland, Ohio. An eternal believer in the future of Armenia, Tim has lived in Yerevan since September of 2000. He is the honorary consul of both Finland and Norway in Armenia. Reporting regularly to Helsinki and Oslo about poverty, emigration, unemployment, domestic violence and stunting in children, Tim decided in 2010 to create an organization that focuses on the creation of viable employment of women, mostly in the regions of Armenia. Today, the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation provides an income to hundreds of women across the country, designing and marketing products based on their traditional skills – crocheting, knitting, sewing, embroidery, illumination painting, fruit preserves and more. The Homeland Development Initiative Foundation is an AIWA supported initiative.
Q: What is your life philosophy?
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all (Helen Keller). Happiness is only achieved by putting others ahead of yourself. In the Armenian context, roll up your sleeves, we have a country to build.
Q: What is your hope for the future?
It’s very simple. During the ceremony last week for the presentation of credentials by the new Finnish ambassador to Armenia to the president of Armenia, he asked me why I have stayed 21 years so far in Armenia. I answered concisely with the same answer I always give: ‘The potential’. He nodded. If we each contribute in some small way every day to a better Armenia, then the country as a whole will improve. HDIF has a mantra. It goes ‘roof over their heads, food on their tables, and education for their kids’. This is how HDIF contributes to a better Armenia every day. My 64th birthday is next week. For that occasion I have a fundraiser going for a young family in Berd to help them open a cafe in Berd, where nothing like it exists. That’s what I want to use my birthday for, not for balloons and cakes. But yes, I do plan to pop a cork with friends!
Q: What is your favorite thing about Armenians/Armenia?
Never a boring day…never! Every day is packed with idea sharing, project concepts, networking…. In Armenia, we never talk about the weather. We plan the next aquaponics project, the next hiking trail, the next networking get together. There’s no time to hang with our heads and regret what could have been. Yes, again, roll up your sleeves, we have a country to build. And, the women here are AMAZING! I am the only male in our office, simply because the young women of Armenia are so hard working, so willing to learn and grow…the guys need to catch up, the women are going to pull this country up by its bootstraps.
Q: We called 2020 the year of the upheaval and awakening? What were your biggest upheavals and what did they teach you? What was your awakening(s) and what did it teach you?
HDIF learned to pivot, and pivot fast…to be flexible and do new things to keep the company thriving, not just surviving, or closing. We pivoted to masks in February, to honey and jams after the July clashes in Tavoush, back to masks, and then on to relief packages after the war started in September and onwards to the huge Buy Armenian tsunami that rolled over the internet in the aftermath of the war. We are springboarding off of all this in 2021, still making masks for bigger clients like the EU and UN, refining our business model a little bit every day, focusing on our strengths, using our orders for products to support producer partners emotionally, not only financially, through very difficult emotional times as every village in the country has had to bury young men, and some are still not found yet. Resilience and determination are key to this. We all need to be strong now, and yes, roll up our sleeves, we have a country to build.
Q: How has the Armenian culture shaped you?
The depth of emotion in the culture is something that has affected me deeply. I still have a hard core Midwestern ‘get over it’ back bone, but the deep appreciation Armenians have for their alphabet, their duduk, their historical legends has profoundly influenced me. ‘Tsavet tanem’ is untranslatable but universal, says Google. Totally agree. Trying to explain the emotional depth of ‘kyank’ to a non-Armenian is impossible. ‘Life’ just doesn’t hold a candle to it. 21 years here has changed me in ways I still don’t fully understand.
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