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Azerbaijan: Kids Crossroads brings hope to young people

Azerbaijan team of Kids' Crossroads

Young people from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia express their dreams, fears and plans through a youth-produced TV programme

By Olga Pukhayeva

Gathered in the news room of Internews in Baku, Azerbaijan, a group of young journalists are discussing ideas for the next Kids’ Crossroads programme to be broadcast across the countries of the South Caucasus; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

“How about a story on Internet clubs and how video games affect young people?” asks Vugar Safarov, a 16 year-old journalist and web designer. “Lots of young people spend free time in the Internet clubs, some of them can get very addicted to the computers and the world of the video games,” he adds while writing something in his note book. “Or how about featuring plastic arts dance? It looks very beautiful visually,” he adds biting the top of his pen.

Launched in 2004 Kids’ Crossroads is a three-year scheme funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Internews Azerbaijan and UNICEF.

Made by young people aged 14-16 who may one day become journalists, the programme aims to promote peace and understanding between the three countries of the South Caucasus.

 In May 2005 Internews Azerbaijan trained a new group of young people on the basics of journalism and video production. The group has produced five video stories using their new skills and six young people have been selected to work on Kids Crossroads in the future.

The culmination of the training was a two-week seminar in the Georgian seaside resort of Chakve in July 2005. Here, participants from the three countries had a chance to meet, learn from each other and discuss future plans for Kids’ Crossroads. Peace and tolerance were discussed, alongside the training and the fun.

Unveiling young lives

Kids’ Crossroads unveils the lives of young people in the South Caucasus and is broadcast alongside other regional programmes in Armenian, Azeri and Georgian. 

In Azerbaijan it is aired each month by one of Sumgayit’s TV channels. Internews hopes that in 2006 the programme can appear on Public TV and reach a wider audience

Ismayil Veliyev, a producer of  Kids’Crossroads believes that it is very important “to reduce aggression and soften the child’s image of a so-called ‘enemy’. This programme is crucial to strengthening humanity among people. Once we do that, it will be easier to go ahead with the peacekeeping process.” 

Valiyev also stressed that the programme helps to overcome the information vacuum between the countries of the region.

A rare experience

For Vugar Safarov, participating in the workshop was a rare experience.

“It is the first time when I’ve met an Armenian peer in my entire life. Initially we were trying to keep our distance, but after we’ve started working together, our attitude towards each other has changed,” he recalls.

He stressed the progress made once workshop participants started working in multinational groups. During the two weeks of the workshop, the participants attended courses on journalism and produced several programmes featuring life in Chakve and its surroundings.

“The participants had to demonstrate two programmes and develop six topics,” Vugar explained. “We were doing two shows which included stories about lifeguards, tourism development in Ajaria, life of refugees after they had fled from Abkhazia.”

Programmes produced by the kids were broadcast on Channel 25 of Ajarian TV. The TV programme made by kids covers six topics and features social themes, individual profiles, music, travel and leisure sections.

Hosting talk shows, said Vugar, was really exciting. Talk shows dedicated to tea traditions in Azerbaijan and power shortages in Chakve “caused really hot discussions.”

Changing perceptions

When he first decided to join Kids’ Crossroads, Vugar thought it would just be a “cool teenage game”, but the more involved he has become, the more his perceptions have changed.

“Right now when I watch TV I have an absolutely different perception of TV production. Now I just sit and count ‘30 second shot’, ‘40 second shot’,” he said smiling.

While Vugar is thinking of becoming an auditor after he graduates from high school, he also plans to combine his career with journalism. “I would also like to be a TV production editor,” he said.

While talking about difficulties he has come across while working a reporter, he said that  working on social stories is “morally more challenging”.

Sixteen-year-old Adelya Suleymanova is an anchor for Kids’ Crossroads in Azerbaijan. She has  always wanted to host a talk show. “As a kid I remember admiring Turkish, Russian and Azerbaijani talk show hosts,” she said.

Internews producers noticed her talents while she was doing a voice recording for one of the programmes and suggested that she try a new challenge. Today Adelya wears several hats within Kids’ Crossroads. Along with hosting talk shows, she is also the anchor for the news edition and a producer of her own TV stories. But hosting a talk show remains her favourite task.

“I think being a host of a talk show is equal to being a God,” she says beaming with smile.   “People in the audience treat you like that… They think they depend on you in every little detail and you feel very powerful,” she adds. 

Along with professional skills, the participants also learn how to pitch their own ideas and work individually without the help of the programme producers.

“When you are doing multiple tasks on your own you feel like an adult,” Adelya said.

Officially, Kids’ Crossroads journalists come to the Internews office twice a week to see producers, to complete some work or to start working on some new projects. But the doors are always open to young journalists.

“Children come here with very little experience or no experience at all,” Valiyev said. “But with every story they are moving forward.”  Kids’ Crossroads, he says, helps kids to grow into professional journalists “whose work tomorrow could change a lot.”

© UNICEF Azerbaijan/Levine/2005
Seventeen-year-old Kenul Mamedova edits a new episode of Kids Crossroads at the Internews Office in Baku, Azerbaijan

Hosting talk shows, Safarov said, was really exciting. Talk shows dedicated to tea traditions in Azerbaijan and power shortages in Chakve “caused really hot discussions,” Safarov said.

Safarov said that joining Kids’ Crossroads he initially considered as ‘a cool teenage game’. Yet, he added his perception changed the more he got involved in the project.

“Right now when I watch TV I have an absolutely different perception of TV production. Now I just sit and count ‘30 second shot’, ‘40 second shot’,” he said smiling.

Safarov who wants to be an auditor after he graduates from high school, plans to combine his main work with journalism. “I would also like to be a TV production editor,” he said.

While talking about difficulties he has come across while working a reporter Safarov said that working on social stories is “morally more challenging”.

16 year-old Adelya Suleymanova is an anchor for Kids’ Crossroads in Azerbaijan. According to her, she has always wanted to host a talk show. “As a kid I remember admiring Turkish, Russian and Azerbaijani talk show hosts,” she said.

Internews producers noticed her talents while she was doing a voice recording for one of the programs and suggested her to try on a new role.

Suleymanova, actually wears several hats within Kids’ Crossroads. Along with hosting talk shows, she is also the anchor for the news edition and a producer of her own TV stories. But still she admits being a talk show host is her favorite task. “I think being a host of the talk show is equal to being a God,” she says beaming with smile.   “People in the audience treat you like that… They think they depend on you in every little detail and you feel very powerful,” she adds. 

Along with professional skills the project participants get, they also learn how to pitch their own ideas and work individually without interference of the program producers.

“When you are doing multiple tasks on your own you feel like an adult,” Suleymanova said.
 
Kids’ Crossroads journalists officially come to the Internews office twice a week to see producers, to complete some work or to start working on some new projects. But doors at the office are always open to young journalists.

“Children come here with very little experience or no experience at all,” Valiyev said. “But with every story they are moving forward.”  Kids’ Crossroads, according to him, helps kids to grow into professional journalists ‘whose work tomorrow could change a lot.’

 

 
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