16 new skills for life for adolescents and young people
UNICEF supports adolescents in post-war recovery with the first in the country package of training on basic life-saving skills
A stack of grey tee-shirts, paint and brushes are lined up on round tables in the all-white and bright performance hall in Martuni high school, on the east of Armenia.
Sirun, 16, and her friends are closely examining the craft materials with excitement and discuss which stickers they are going to use.
The group of friends stayed at school after classes to meet with artist Marine Danielyan in the final session on basic life-saving skills course provided by UNICEF in partnership with Ayb Educational Foundation.
“Soon we will post these stickers on the shirts. Then we will paint and leave the shirts to dry, and then only decorate, after which we can all wear our hand-decorated shirts!” says Marine Danielyan.
“Each sticker presents an inspiring idea. We have chosen them based on the content of the previous sessions of the course. I genuinely hope that in the future when each of them wears their own shirt, it will brighten up their day. I love working with young people and I do hope that some of them will pick up art as a hobby.”
Although Sirun loves to paint, she has made up her mind to become a psychologist as a result of this coursework. She says that she managed to master many new skills, but most importantly, she has learned to control her emotions.
“I am a very emotional person. I react to everything quickly, and in these months, I have mastered a few steps to self-control and have successfully applied my new skills. I am very happy to have had the opportunity to participate in these training sessions. In a course of a few weeks I learned to control myself in different situations, I learned to listen to people and give advice. I realised that you have to have a purpose in life and work to achieve your goals,” explains Sirun.
“One of the most important lessons for me were the stress management and self-control sessions, during which I learned that by being silent for only 5-10 minutes, I can overcome an interpersonal conflict situation, bring my thoughts together and not explode.”
Karen Avetisyan, Deputy Principal of Martuni High School, has joined the final session too. According to Mr Avetisyan, many children in the community were deeply affected by the pandemic and the war, leading to stress and other negative outcomes.
“After these sessions, we have already noticed a positive change among the student body. Our students are more at ease now, there is a great atmosphere of respect and tolerance. Students are able to set goals, work great in teams and apply the newly learned skills. This has been a crucial experience for our community in light of the pandemic and the conflict,”
After the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020, UNICEF Armenia launched its humanitarian support to children and women. Needs assessments showed that adolescents and young people also needed support to cope with the new challenges, posed by the conflict and aggravated with the pandemic. UNICEF’s basic life-saving skills concept was hence adapted with the purpose of supporting adolescents and young people not only to acquire skills for the post-conflict period but also for life. The training package has been the first of its kind in Armenia.
“Stress has become an everyday thing in life and it’s super important for adolescents to have the necessary skills that can help them cope with challenges with resilience and perseverance. At UNICEF, we decided to implement this programme to equip young people with 16 basic skills for them to get to know themselves and others better, understand their own feelings and emotions, manage stress, stay calm, and effectively communicate with peers. These skills will help adolescents to be more ready for adulthood, make healthier decisions and have healthier relationships, both in the family and in their social network,”
Since January, UNICEF Armenia partnered with Ayb Education Foundation to deliver the training for adolescents who have fled the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh or who reside in border zone communities. It has been delivered in Tavush region - Ijevan, Berd, Noyemberyan; in Gegharkunik - Sevan, Gavar, Martuni; in Aragatsotn - Ashtarak, Talin, Aragarsavan, as well as in Yerevan.
Lusine Aghabekyan, a leading psychologist in Armenia and programme trainer, is in Gavar high school, Gegharkunik region, with the project. She has already met 16 times with students in the past two months for an hour and a half session.
“Each group of students singles out a topic of most relevance to them. In their feedback, students mentioned that they especially liked the communication skills session, during which they learned how to listen to and empathize with each other and how to be more tolerant. As we studied communication skills in conflict, they expressed regret that they had not referred to the subject before. This was a very important course for young people whose lives have been uprooted as they are preparing for adulthood, trying to choose a future profession and are generally on a path to self-discovery,” concluded Mrs Aghabekyan after the certificate ceremony.
“We drew a wrecked ship with an anchor attached to it during one of the sessions. The ship symbolised a man, and the anchor symbolised his problems. We wrote down our problems and the ways in which we could cope with them. That session helped me a lot. I will use this method in the future as well,”
Mary Hakobyan from Sevan high school is designing her own tee-shirt with a “I am the owner of my life” sticker.
“I participated in this programme, because I wanted to learn two things: how to make my dreams come true and how to solve problems. I realised that in order to do the first, I have to start from the second, from the settlement of problems, and the only way to do that is to listen and try to understand the other person. Only then the solution to the problem will appear in its own way,”