Conflict vs Connection: A Training for Young Peace Builders in Armenia

Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia) in partnership with TeachSurfing (Germany) hosted 45 youth workers from 12 different countries; Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. The country representatives were hosted in Yerevan from 10th to 17th of April in the frames of the international training course “Conflict vs Connection” funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.

The objective of the training for Young Peace Builders was due to the existing conflicts in the region, which in their turn negatively impact both Armenia’s and the neighbouring countries’ development. The ambition to build peace has been among the political and diplomatic circles of the participating countries. However, many of the conflicts are still unresolved, influencing young people living in those countries. More often, young people are the ones who become victims of violent conflicts and wars.

The course focused mainly on the topics of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peace building and conflict management, which are very relevant in the participating countries. The training has been conducted by 3 professional trainers by using lots of interactive exercises and non-formal educational activities, identifying the reasons of conflicts, possible solutions and the role that young people can play in conflict resolution processes. Apart from discussing the cross-border and international conflicts, they discussed also interpersonal conflicts and learnt about effective strategies to overcome them.

Except the academic part of the project, the participants had a chance to get acquainted with the Armenian culture and national cuisine during the Intercultural evening, excursion to Garni and Geghard, City Rallies initiatives. Moreover, the participants were able to present their national cuisine and culture as well, by creating a real multicultural atmosphere.

Within the project a public “Human Library”event has been organized, where many local and international participants, including 12 country representatives, had a chance to meet and talk to Muslims, Buddhists, people of different nationalities and groups, ask them about their daily life, ambitions, aspirations and concerns. Human Library worked as an ordinary library: readers came to the library, choose a book and read it. The only difference is that books are humans, and the reading is a real conversation.

The participants were willing to share their impressions and the outcome of the project with the readers below.

Maria Argyride from Cyprus talked about the importance of the project, “Through this training I learned a lot of practices and techniques that I can transfer to other people especially to children because I’m a teacher. I think, that now I understand how conflicts begin and can find the right way to solve it. And I feel so cool with knowledge, good feelings, positive energy thanks to your project.”

Viktor Petrov from Ukraine highlighted “I’m a youth worker and trainer, so this topic and this environment are pretty good for me, for my profession and personal development and also I’d love to contribute to peace-building and this topic is very important for me. The most important thing for me is that we gathered people from 13 countries here, different cultures with the same goal and this is the most important.
In our society there are many conflicts and I truly believe, that if we spread the information as much as possible, we can get closer to peace, so I’d love to continue the trainings and spreading information and knowledge I gained.”

“I learned many things in this project and the most basic one is that there is no such a thing “the big shark eats the small one”, we all can collaborate and become the winner in any kind of subject. Peace is an abstract term, for me at least, and in order to make it more substantial you need to work for it.  I think, if many positive people gather together they can do great, amazing things, but people being apart and fighting against each other is something terrible and we can see the results… because it happens centuries.” mentioned Giorgos Gkaraklidis, a participant from Cyprus.

The Young Initiative on Foreign Affairs and International Relations (Germany) and Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia) invite representatives from NGOs and Civil Society Organizations based in Armenia, France, Germany, Israel and Turkey to submit their applications and join our project “Common Remembrance, Future Relations: Experiences from Armenia, France, Germany, Israel and Turkey”. The project is supported by the Federal Foreign Office.

What is the project about?
The burden of the past and blind spots in the construction of national historical truths often manifest in obstacles to intergovernmental cooperation. However, the mutual exchange of societies’ experiences and their understanding of past events can facilitate processes of remembrance, reappraisal and reconciliation. By connecting NGOs and guiding a structured exchange of the culture of remembrance as well as memorial practices in Armenia, France, Germany, Israel and Turkey, the project is designed to reduce images of the other, to initiate reciprocal learning processes in remembrance, commemoration and reconciliation work, and to foster intercultural cooperation by planning and launching collaborative projects.

The project is divided into three phases:

1. First meeting in Yerevan, Armenia:
This first session aims to provide a platform for NGOs to connect with each other. It further enables the dissemination of knowledge as well as the exchange of the countries’ specific cultures of remembrance. (03.05. – 07.05.17)

2. Second meeting in the respective country:
The second phase provides a work shadowing opportunity. Each NGO representative teams up with a partner NGO in order to gain deeper insights into their understanding of past events, to understand their approaches of reconciling with the past and to learn about different ways of communicating knowledge. (5 -7 days)

3. Evaluation meeting in Berlin, Germany:
The last session provides a forum to exchange ideas about the work shadowing, to discuss challenges for the work of NGOs regarding remembrance, reappraisal and reconciliation and to plan future projects to create lasting bonds. (3 days)

What do we want to achieve with this project?
The project offers a platform for exchange and networking. Our focus is to support activists in:
– sharing their knowledge and ideas in the field of culture of remembrance;
– reappraising the past, breaking stereotypes and deconstructing images of the other;
– bringing NGOs together and creating lasting bonds of exchange and cooperation between them.

Who is our target group?
We are looking for 20 representatives from NGOs:
– who organise and carry out projects in the field of remembrance culture or international political dialogue;
– who live and work in Armenia, France, Germany, Israel and Turkey;
– who have experience in project management.

How can I participate?
If the above criteria apply to you and you are interested in learning about other countries’ processes of remembering, in sharing your own expertise and knowledge of the field and in contributing to a better understanding between societies, then please send your application (CV, letter of motivation, certificates) by 15th of March 2017 to joana.westphal@ifair.eu

Your motivation letter should include the following information:
– Your present occupation (project, challenges, plans)
– Your motivation to participate at the project; how the project will benefit yourself and your organization.

The working language is English.

Deadline: 15th of March 2017

Travel expenses and accommodation
Travel expenses and accommodation during the time of the project will be covered by the organizers. Participants are required to pay a participation fee of 60 Euros only for the entire participation in the whole program.

For questions on the project or the application procedure, please contact varsenik.minasyan@ifair.eu or joana.westphal@ifair.eu

We are looking forward to your application!

“Learn, Do, Stay Inspired” – Armenian Young People go to Sweden

On November 5-12 three Armenians, representing APY, joined “Learn, Do, Stay Inspired” program in Gothenburg, Sweden.

One of the participants of the training course from APY is the winner of our video contest in frames of Europe Day in Armenia, Europe 4 Youth Arpine Kirakosyan who was awarded an educational trip and participation in one of the countries of the European Union. Thus, the selection fell on Sweden.

You may check her video here.

But, let’s get back to where we started.

32 participants from 10 countries discussed volunteering, social change and human rights topics revealing new perspectives on the subject and learning new tools to motivate people contribute to their communities through volunteering. Our participants shared their experience in this + project:

Aripine Kirakosyan

” I especially loved our discussions on Human rights which was presented us through interactive ways such as a still image method, where we should change the situation which is presented us in a scene where the actors remain still in the same position. During the project we shared our experience, learned about others, and learned techniques to motivate and inspire others to do volunteering work to benefit their communities. Our trainers and all the participants were the definition of cool. My first Erasmus + project was a success because of the people involved in and the knowledge I gained from them during the program. To this awesomeness add hot chocolate, cinnamon bun, Swedish delicious cuisine and the unforgettable experience is ready.”

Aghavni Yesayan

“This training for me was the 2nd Erasmus+ program. It was full of emotions and inspiring moments, different kinds of people, a little bit crazy but positive and ready to help and support in difficult situations. It was good chance to enjoy the beauty of Gothenburg and what is the most important to understand that good team can listen, understand and respect each other, share the knowledge, experience. This TC gave me a chance to challenge myself, learn more about group dynamics .We spent wonderful time, reflections, happy moments, great people and cold Sweden weather! For me “Learn , do ,stay inspired “project was a place for meeting new people, making friends, inspiring , challenging and revealing myself. This was the project I really liked and enjoyed.”

 

Karen Kaplakchyan

“My first experience of such international projects was really a great one and left me very inspired. #Learn – a lot of good materials about non formal education, energizers, project management etc. #Do – mission impossible and open space projects came to be a great tool to express yourself, work in a team and to do what you have known or just learnt. #Inspired – Every time is a right time and every person is a right person who is ready to join the team and has his input. This project left me very inspired and gave me a great dose of motivation to go on with this kind of international projects, to join more local projects and share what I got in Sweden, as Sharing is Caring.”

Our journey to piece building and piece keeping on the Black sea in Kobuleti, Georgia

The project for us, three Armenian beauties, started with a ten hour minibus ride from Erevan to Kobuleti and my suitcase flying out of the bus in the middle of the road. Luckily, nothing happened to my things while I suffered a mini heart attack entertaining the driver and my fellow passengers. Quite an ice breaker I should say. Our ride consisted of kilometers of exceptionally bad roads, constant temperature changes, interesting conversations, driver’s philosophical monologues, Mariam and Ksenia’s loud laughing sessions (seriously guys, the way they laugh can bring a dead person to life and fill you with a positive mood for years to come) and absolutely GORGEOUS Caucasian scenery! Only from this ride I have enough #tbt pictures for many decades.

We were one of the first participants to arrive at the location of the training course, so after checking into our room and getting to know the organizers we obviously ran to the sea which, very conveniently, was of 3 minute walking distance from our staying place. During the dinner we met other participants and instantly bonded with everyone (a very good ice breaker was the fact that everyone was melting under the hot Georgia sun). They were an open minded, outgoing, spontaneous, smart and active bunch of awesome people from 8 different countries (Estonia, Italy, Ukraine, Armenia, Hungary, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Germany) who made our project days full of cheerful and bright atmosphere. Just to give you an example, in the middle of the night Dato and Nuka, our new Georgian friends who we just met 5 minutes ago, startled us with an invitation to swim in the ocean at night which we of course accepted (I promise, it was safe, we took a flashlight with us).13501928_10157152227040253_446398430498313445_n

We had absolutely great guitar evenings at the beach, local market exploration and bargaining and long interesting conversations. Moreover, Ksenia, Mariam and me had a chance to experience local Georgian hospitality, we got offered fine Georgian vine as a compliment from a café owner (who couldn’t resist Ksenia’s bright smile and sparkly eyes), flattered with constant compliments from the hotel staff and just in general were surrounded with a very cozy atmosphere that made us feel welcomed in Kobuleti.In the framework of the project we had one day excursion to Batumi. Shortly after our arrival to the city we got under the heavy rain and hid from it in front of the strip club which we became aware of after seeing a great display of golden women’s private parts on the walls and confused look on the face of the concierge when we ran towards the building.  But besides that in Batumi we enjoyed authentic Georgian cuisine after which it was hard to breath, let alone run from rain, and managed to walk and explore the city center.One of the most rewarding parts of the project for me was bonding with the participants, not only international but also with my teammates Mariam and Ksenia.  We shared so many great experiences together that made us so much closer. These ranged from searching for a place to eat to helping Ksenia get through chickenpox that she suddenly got in the middle of the project.

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This training course surprised us with the level of intensity and quality of the information we were receiving during each session.  There wasn’t a day when we didn’t learn something that made us have even more questions. The trainers were extremely professional and helpful. Even though, during the training we received a lot of new complex information it didn’t feel heavy on our heads since the delivery was very entertaining. The piece building and piece keeping themes were extremely relevant given the current situation in the world which made the project even more effective. It was very interesting to do the activities with the participants from Azerbajian and despite the language and culture barriers alongside with tense political situation, to see how our perceptions of each other change.

This project made us further realize the importance of honest and comprehensive dialogue as one of the most powerful tools for piece building, conflict resolution and peacekeeping. We learned about different types of participation and the importance of active participation in the local communities. Also, we had a chance to take the role of trainers and conduct a whole training session with activities, reflection and presentation of new information, ourselves.

13592255_1097694346961355_5672622260252914937_nThrough this activity we grew so much and really fixated what we learned throughout the project, overcame the fear of public performance and gained valuable experience in preparing and conducting a training session. It also made us realize how hard of a job is to train youth from different countries and also the value and efficiency of nontraditional education. The multicultural environment of the participants, the newness of the activities and academic competence of the trainers made a perfect combination that resulted in a very productive training session with lots of challenges, gained experiences, realizations every participant made for themselves and the establishment of new bonds and friendships. At the completion of the program we all agreed that this was one of the most rewarding experiences in our lives, as in just one week we became more aware of other cultures and traditions, their foods and customs, learned a lot about ourselves and the world. Also, we further discovered our strength and weaknesses, started questioning many things that prior to this experience we just choose to accept as well as became more inspired to make changes in our local communities and promote the ideas discussed during the training course.

 

 Tamara Bezljudova

“SKYE” Club’s Future Trainers’ Meeting

World Vision Armenia in partnership with Armenian Progressive Youth NGO and several Yerevan-based organizations is going to launch a SKYE Club in Yerevan.

The SKYE Club (Skills and Knowledge for Youth Economic-empowerment) model is a holistic and integrated approach to helping disadvantaged youth develop the skills, behaviors and attitudes necessary to obtain sustainable livelihoods and participate constructively in their communities. This is achieved through group based training and support services.

The club is going to operate in Yerevan and will bring together 25 Syrian-Armenian and local young people based in Yerevan for weekly meetings and training focus on soft skills development, personal growth, employability and IT skills.

Armenian Progressive Youth is going to select several outstanding volunteers who will take part in Training of Trainers as well as a coaching and mentoring process conducted by the professionals at World Vision Armenia. They will be leading the SKYE Club and facilitation the learning process of the participants.

On the 2nd of November 4 of the candidates had their first meeting to deliver presentations and workshops to demonstrate their trainers’ skills and participate in the selection process. All of them will undergo a final selection and will join the trainer’s team.

Many thanks to #Article3 Club for hosting us in their warm and friendly environment.

 

 

 

Inner Peace for Youth: International project in Latvia

On May 17th, 2016, Sergey and I started our journey to Latvia. pic1
For me it was my second Training Course, but Sergey had never participated in a training before. But both of us were equally excited about the project and getting to visit Latvia: a country we had never been before. We decided to go a day earlier to be able to enjoy it on our own a bit and see around Riga. Besides, I already had a good friend from Latvia from my previous Training Course in Belarus (one of the perks of Erasmus+: making friends from all over the world). Linda, my friend from Latvia, greeted us and showed us the beautiful places of Riga.
We also met Angelina, another participant from Macedonia (FYROM) and had great time before the start of the TC.

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After 3 hours of ride we finally arrived at Chill Inn, our TC venue.  It immediately took our breaths away. It was the perfect place for a training about inner peace. Tall trees stood all around and sea was just 5 minutes away.  The training was the second “Peace Way for Youth” training and it was concentrated on inner peace.

Our mornings started with a nice yoga session on the beach.  After yoga we were hurrying back to Chill Inn to have our tasty vegetarian breakfast (actually, all meals were vegetarian). Immediately after breakfast we moved to our teambuilding and inner peace building activities. Our trainer, Ilze, made us go deep into ourselves and explore us to an extent which we didn’t know we could. It was a week of self-discovery. Our sessions were eye-opening and emotional. Most of the participants were sharing touching stories from their experiences during our storytelling sessions. Day by day our circle was becoming stronger.  Through our activities we got to know ourselves and be at peace with who we are.
I learned from the TC that in order to create peace around you you must have a clear understanding of yourself and have peace within.
After the end of the project we left Latvia with inner peace, sweet memories, many friends, and an anticipation for the next stage of the project in Stockholm, Sweden.

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“Where Does Hate Come From?” International Training Course in Yerevan

From 15th to 23rd of July Armenian Progressive Youth NGO together in cooperation with Active Ukrainians in Europe from Sweden hosted an international training course on the topic of combating hate speech among young people in Europe.
32 youth workers and youth leaders from 11 different countries such as Sweden, Romania, France, Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey and Armenia gathered in Yerevan to participate in the training and to learn more about Armenia and the reality in it. With the background of migration crisis in Europe and extremism spreading in the world- the objectives of the training were to explore the notion of hate speech and its main roots. Furthermore, it aimed at inspiring youth workers to find innovative solutions to fight hate speech in their societies.

13710570_1224005424285468_8273794439592331678_oSharing the growing sense of concern towards the rise of hate speech in Europe, the two organizations also came up with an initiative of organizing a panel discussion to bring together policy-makers, experts, civil society activists, youth workers and youth leaders from Armenia and Europe to get engaged in interactive dialogue, debate and discuss the possible solutions for tackling hate speech and its repercussions on young people. A Panel Discussion  entitled as Freedom of Speech VS Hate Speech.

In the end of the project participants have also planned and organized a flashmob to reach out to public with a number of different activities they have prepared about raising public awareness on hate speech targeting different vulnerable groups to join the European Action Day for victims of hate crime.

Some of the participants agreed to share with us their personal experiences within the training course and to reflect on the content and learning achievements they have had.
13782065_1228848567134487_8139831020236367909_nOne of the participants, Radu Dalidis, a 23 year-old NGO worker from Denmark, says that the training course has helped him to understand the roots of hate speech and how to tackle it in daily life. Also, he adds, that he now acknowledges how to avoid stereotypes and prejudices when meeting new people and when facing different situations. Radu points out that in Denmark, there is a need of greater tolerance for the Roma people. To conduct education on the hate speech topic to youngsters and youth workers would be preferable, since they are more likely to be receptive. There are various methods to do this, such as social media campaigns, flyers distribution or social events implemented in relevant locations.

 In general, Radu emphasises that he was very satisfied with the overall quality of th13680390_1224007730951904_5069318212312835807_oe training course as well as with the accommodation and food. According to him, the trainers were very professional and did their best to ensure the highest quality of the training course

 Arpen Sargsyan, a 24 year-old youth worker from Sweden, says that for her the training has been about digging deeper into why and when we experience feeling of hate, in order to understand how to prevent it. Radu continued that before the training he was unaware of the consequences of hate speech and how it affects our nowadays society. However, now after the training he feels that he has the knowledge on combating hate speech and dealing with it. “Furthermore, the training course enabled meetings with amazing people from different countries, with different cultural background. This improved my interpersonal skills and expanded my network”, he adds.13730829_1228849113801099_8819751485246743864_o

Arpen recognizes that specifically right now in Sweden there is a need to build a greater tolerance towards refugees. And that tolerance can be build
only with interactions with tolerance. On how to combat these issues she responds ”I think everyone in my society would benefit from this kind of education. Children are certainly a group to address with such an education. They are the future so we do have to think a lot in educating them in order to prevent future hate speech acts. But I do believe that everyone in my society do need to develop a greater understanding.”
Robertas Sunokas, 34 years old from Lithuania, also highlights that it was very interesting to have participants from different countries involved in discussions and sharing their own cultural beliefs.

Armenian Youth stands 4 Peace

There have been many who have wanted to achieve peace and received peace prizes for their work. But peace cannot be achieved until now. All over the world young people are the biggest victims when wars break out. On May 25th Armenian Progressive Youth NGO in cooperation with IPYG (International Peace Youth Group) has organized a “Peace Walk” dedicated to peace and cessation of war. Young people have gathered in the APY office and started marching through Saryan and Tumanyan streets reaching the Northern Avenue and the Republic Square.

The aim of the Peace Walk was to raise an awareness about the importance of maintaining international peace and security ensuring the acceptance of principles of the Charter of the United Nations and other international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Through the Peace Walk APY volunteers and staff members wanted to acknowledge that all members of the human family enjoy human dignity and equal and inalienable rights, and that these rights represent a necessary tenet of the preservation of freedom, justice and peace throughout the world.

Peace cannot achieved by one man’s hand but citizens of Yerevan confirmed the importance they attach to peace and agreed with us that achieving peace and stability in our region should be the primary task of everyone!