10 Ideas from Young People in Gyumri and Spitak

Ten teams - 50 young girls and boys came together in the first round of UNICEF’s UPSHIFT program for adolescents and youth to present their ideas

Zhanna Ulikhanyan
50 young girls and boys came together in the first round of UNICEF’s UPSHIFT program.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ghazaryan
18 April 2019

Super positive, inspiring, and packed with action – this is the least that can be said of our last weekend at the Gyumri Technology Center with the young people of Gyumri and Spitak and with the Gyumri Youth Initiative Center!

Ten teams - 50 young girls and boys came together in the first round of UNICEF’s UPSHIFT program for adolescents and youth to present their ideas on how to tackle community development issues that they have identified in the past two months. While the problems seem to be many at the local level, each team succeeded in choosing and focusing on one.

So here are our ten teams and their ten ideas that in the next few months will transform into ten new projects with the support of UPSHIFT mentors.

1. A community with our own hands

First team of UPSHIFT Armenia put their hands together to build a community with their own hands.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ghazaryan

Here are five young people, 12-17, that offer to install thematically designed benches in the center of Gyumri, because they cannot find a place to sit and relax, while spending time outside with friends. 17-year-old Nadia’s favorite will be the reading bench, with a bookshelf next to it, so that children and adults also have an opportunity to read a new book and exchange.

2. To preserve what’s ours

UPSHIFT Armenia's team who wants to preserve what is theirs.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

Here’s a team of four students of 8th grade who have decided to improve the park near the Fayton cafe in Gyumri. They are ready to launch a full-hearted action on the park from cleaning and garbage disposal to installing trash bins and tree planting – anything needed to turn it into the most colorful park of Gyumri. They also plan to pain multiple colored footprints throughout the park that will lead to the trash bins. "We hope that this way we will be able to encourage a clean environment," says 13-year old Narek, one of the youngest participants of UPSHIFT.

 3.Smart map


A boy and a girl from "Smart map" team holding in their hands a paper with their teams' name.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

To give tourists a better view of their city, this group of young people would like to install trilingual touch-screen maps in at least three places in Gyumri. This way, both tourists and residents will be able to get info on transportation routes in the city, places to see and instructions on how to find a specific place that they are looking for. This group thinks green and wants to power these touch-screen maps through solar panels.

The idea came to them when one of the group members got lost in the capital city. "I got lost in Yerevan, I did not have a phone and could not find my way home. If there was anything like this at that time, I would have not turned to the police but would have found my way back by myself."

 4. A piece of roof


This group is from Jrapi village, about 32 kilometers from Gyumri. It turns out that there is no bus stop in the village or on the way to it, which is especially not convenient during rainy days. So this group decided to design and install their village’s first ever bus stop!

“And what do you need in order not to get wet? Of course, a roof, or as they say in Gyumri, a piece of roof!"

16-year-old Garush
Garush, a boy from " A piece of roof" team sitting around table with the team.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

5. Eco-friendly bags


Eco bags idea beautifully hand written on A4 format paper.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

The story of this group? Suren thought of the idea, presented it to his friends and persuaded them to join him. Now they all think over how to create grocery bags from fabric so that they can free their community from plastic bags. They are sure they will entice everyone with their sharp and creative design. Each bag will come with a small booklet on the importance of going plastic-free and once people get used to it, maybe they will stop using polyethylene once and for all?!

6. Gyumriver or the Gyumri river


Three girls and a boy teamed up to clean the river in Gyumri.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

Here we have three 15-year-old girls and one boy teamed up to give one of the most picturesque sights in Gyumri – the Gyumri river, a fresh start. However, this team is convinced, that this is not going to be a one-time job, and that cleaning the river from garbage and plastic is not the only solution to the problem. The team clearly understands that they need other sponsors and supporters for the whole program to succeed. They are confident that they will manage to advocate with the city hall to get additional support.

Vardan plays on piano during the UPSHIFT programme breaks.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

"Apart from the cleaning work, we also need to work with people so that no waste is thrown into the river. Personally, I've seen a couple of times construction waste being thrown into the river. I have tried approaching these people to ask them not to do it, but my efforts were all in vain."

says Vardan, who kept us all entertained during the breaks with his piano performances

7. Sports equipment for school

12-year-old Gor, who want to become a doctor.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

These 7th graders managed to persuade their entire school to go for their idea. Their dream is to equip their school gym with all necessary materials and equipment so that every student is able to practice different team and individual sports. 12-year-old Gor from this group is one of the youngest participants in UPSHIFT. He wants to become a doctor, but before becoming one, he wants to get everyone healthy through the physical education classes!

8. Tree plantings and birdhouses

Astghik from the group who propose to plant trees and build birdhouses in Gyumri.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

This five-member team wants to increase the amount of oxygen in Gyumri. They plan to plant new trees in a park in Gyumri and build birdhouses on the trees from recycled plastic bottles. They say that they have to work hard to turn their idea into a full-blown project, but in one thing they are absolutely sure -  when they win, and the program is implemented, they will not step aside, they will make sure that the trees are always properly watered and that the birds are nurtured.

9. Composting in alternative greenhouses

Egg shells, potatoes, any other food waste, even meat bones, can be organic fertilizers.," says 16-year-old Arsen and adds, "this way the available resources won’t go to waste and it will also be cost-efficient."

2 boys from the team "Composting in alternative greenhouses" are shaking hands.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

This team aims not only to collect food waste, but also to create their own greenhouse and cultivate their own vegetables using organic fertilizers. But before turning it into a program, they are planning to do research with farmers about the demand and the correct use of organic fertilizers.

10. Waste sorting in Spitak

UPSHIFT Armenia's the only all-girls team. A GIF where they are walking in the street.
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ulikhanyan

This is UPSHIFT’s all-girls team and they are very proud to have managed to win over other team at their schools to come to UPSHIFT. This team plans to introduce the culture of waste sorting in their city of Spitak and their entry-point is their school. The girls are sure they will manage to build ownership within the school to get started. They will need to first install separate trash cans at school, educate the community and start collecting trash through sorting in respective bins. Finally, they will send it all separately to the Alaverdi recycling plant. They say they hope to finally get rid of the foul smell around the school and the ugly garbage bins.


So now that you have learned about the teams, which ideas do you like the best? Which teams will you cheer for in the next round?

Now the teams will be doing intensive work with their mentors to get ready for a two-day UPSHIFT Bootcamp in May. A lot needs to be done – they need to further develop their ideas, do some more research, set clear goals and reach out to potential partners. At the final stage of the program, the winning teams will get small seed funding to implement their project.

Stay tuned for the Bootcamp!