An end of summer camp brings together children from Nagorno-Karabakh and Syunik
A summer camp in the town of Sisian helps children who fled the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh to make new friends, experience positive emotions and feel more optimistic.
It’s the final days of the summer, just before schools reopen, and we find ourselves in a two-week summer camp in the southern town of Sisian where over 50 children from Nagorno-Karabakh and Syunik have come together to learn and play together. The camp is supported by UNICEF in partnership with UNDP’s ImpactAim Venture Accelerator, Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center and Enterprise Incubator Foundation.
If you ask children, one of the best take-aways from the camp is that they got to author and illustrate their own fairy tales.
“Through fairy tale therapy, we teach children to imagine and dream. Children need to be optimistic. Using fairy tales, we try to give children wings, motivate them to dream and to believe that their dreams will definitely come true,”
“We rejoice when we see that children come here with pleasure. Even when the lesson is over, they want to stay longer, to play with each other. We already see the result of our work. At first, children were tense and shy. Now they have become more sociable, they have made new friends,” said coach Alina Hovhannisyan.
Ten-year-old Alex Arzumanyan, who settled in Sisian with his family fleeing the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, managed to make friends with Monte during the camp. He described his fairy tale to us.
“I like everything here. We play good games, we make up new things, we work on our fairy tales. My fairy tale is about that kindness wins in the end. It’s about the adventures of a strong horseman who is going to take back his royal palace and throw the evil out of it. When I grow up, I will defend my homeland too. I dream of returning to our house and our village. My rabbits, my dog, our yard, my friends are left there,” said Alex, reminiscing about this village.
Alex’s new friend, seven-year-old Monte, also moved to Sisian with his family as a result of the conflict. He has not yet decided the details of his fairy tale, but he knows for sure that it will be about friendship. He loves to create things with his friends. “Today we made a pen box, the other day we made an ostrich together, we made it up with friends. Friendship is very important; it is not fun to play alone.” Monte has four sisters and a brother. Today he is at camp with his brother and one sister; his older siblings attend the camp’s senior group.
Ten-year-old Nare Hovhannisyan also enjoys coming to the camp and tries not to miss a single day. Nare loves to play soccer and read. An innovative thinker, she dreams of making Sisian more appealing to tourists and wants to establish a factory to increase the number jobs in the city.
“I am writing a fairy tale about the dream of reaching outer space and the Moon. In my fairy tale, the dream must come true․ I hope my dream will also come true and Sisian will become more active, lively and well-off. Before coming here, I spent more time alone, but here I learned not to get bored, I acquired friends. This centre has become a familiar place for me, a place where I meet my friends, talk, have fun, play.”
Nare has become very close with her 12-year-old namesake. “We often discuss events with each other, ask each other for advice. In the morning when I wake up I rejoice that I will come to the camp that day and work on my fairy tale. It will be about nature, I must convince people that no one should harm nature. And when I finish my fairy tale, I will first read it to my friend Nare and ask her to give her opinion,” said Nare Hayrapetyan.
The lesson was coming to an end when Alex’s mother, Armida Voskanyan, came to accompany her daughter and son home.
“The children are very excited that they are making up something new every day, that after the end of the programme they can write their fairy tales, illustrate them and have them printed. Alex studies very well, he is an excellent student, he has written fairy tales before, and he was very happy that one of his fairy tales will finally be published. Both Alex and Meline have made friends here, and they are both happier,”
“It’s important for children to have access to recreation, continued learning and extracurricular activities. It helps them to cope with difficult life circumstances and continue to develop,” noted Hasmik Aleksanyan, UNICEF Adolescent Development Officer. “We want to continue the positive experience from this summer camp, however, in the fall when classes start, we will turn it into extracurricular engagement for children to learn more about information technologies.”