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 [email protected]

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 [email protected] or [email protected]

We are looking forward to your application!

In a New World of Cultural Reality

My name is Hovhannes and very recently I have participated in a short term European Voluntary Service project, funded by the Erasmus + program in Gaziantep Turkey for one month. The theme was social work and volunteering for the environment. We were 12 volunteers from 6 countries in the project organized by Gaziantep Training and Youth Association.

Our EVS aimed at providing education to adults and young people, organize learning activities and workshops, planting trees, gardening, making campaigns etc. We realized that kids and youth have got many disadvantages in the field of social life, they had less information about human rights, gender equality and many other topics… So, we used to assist this target group to develop their personal and social skills.

We used to stay at the association’s building in the city centre of Gaziantep. Gaziantep is the province in south-central Turkey, it’s is not like Istanbul or Ankara, here is an original Anatolian city with unique culture and traditions. We had a well mixture dynamic group of volunteers from different cultures and countries.

Usually we had a schedule to meet on each Monday to decide who is going to do each of the activity of the week. My average day used to start at 10. I was supposed to meet the other volunteers and start preparing the activities. Usually my weekly activities were related to Syrian kids. Kids were quite lovely, welcoming, willing to learn and they used to bring me little drawings as gifts. I really enjoyed the time with them and I got so many positive vibes from them.

Aside of our formal activities we also had an opportunity to face a national festival or a holiday — «Bairam» which in Turkey is known as the sacrifice holiday and is a major event in the Islamic calendar.  The significance relates to the occasion in the Quran when Abraham was ready to sacrifice his own son to the command of God. God interrupted the act and Abraham used a sheep instead, however, the celebration occurs to show the dedication of Abraham and his acknowledgement that God is everything.

Basically that’s a great holiday which falls on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic year, and falls on the tenth day of Thul-Hijjah and coincides with the Yauman-Nahr, «Day of the Sacrifices» in the Hajj Pilgrimage. Like other religious holidays, Bayram is a time when families and friends gather and spend time with one another, enjoying, eating and also feeding people in need are a large part of the festival’s traditions.

I had a great time enjoying classic Turkish cuisine, regional cooking and traditional family recipes with full course meal including a traditional Turkish soup to start, followed by the main course of meat and side dishes made with rice or bulghur.

Well, back to the experience, living and working abroad with cross-cultural team, outside of my comfort zone, I felt no great differences or culture shock.

It was an experience where I’ve received as a real pledge of emotions, loaded my mind and consciousness with tones of humanity and devotion, gratefulness and peace of mind, harmony and will-power to move on. One of the most precious moments for me was the activities with Syrian kids and that was the one I wanted to live. I wondered how happy, satisfied I am, how everything is crazy and unique in a new world of cultural reality.

Written by Hovhannes Sughyan, EVS volunteer in Turkey

Breaking the walls between different nationalities

Being EVS volunteers at the Armenian Progressive Youth NGO, Özge Bozkaya and Ramazan Aygat form Turkey have decided to produce an anti-racism movie tackling the issue of racism and discrimination. Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. Therefore, digital and social media are very important tool to share actions, movements and policies.

In this short movie representatives of 14 nationalities promote and spread the idea of anti-racism. These 14 young people represent their national backgrounds and countries of their origin. They believe that there is no difference between human beings and the racism should be eliminated from our life to live in a much more peaceful world.

Özge Bozkaya from Turley is the director of this movie. She is a volunteer in Armenia and this project is very important for her. She shared with us why this topic is so important for her:

“I am from Turkey and problems between Turkey and Armenia create thoughts in two societies which can be a hedge to communication. However, during my EVS in Armenia I have seen that those beliefs that Armenians and Turks have developed through books, articles and TV programs about each other are just prejudices. I can truly say that knowing and communicating to Armenians and the Armenian society is quite different from reading books about the culture of these beautiful people. That’s why breaking the walls between nationalities is the most important thing in order to become a part of peaceful world. Communicating with everybody, touching souls and experiences, sharing your life with everybody opposes racism and is the point of tranquility. So, our movie aims at promoting anti-discrimination and anti-racism movements and actions. We believe that this our world and we should speak out against racial discrimination! I would like to thank all our friends who took part in this project”.

Özge Bozkaya, EVS Volunteer