Life skills for young people in border zone communities affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
UNICEF equips 350 young people with basic life-saving skills with the support of the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.
From January to June 2021, UNICEF reached over 350 young people in Aragatsotn, Gegharkunik, Tavush and Yerevan with a special course on basic life-saving skills. The coursework was developed by UNICEF and delivered with partners to reach adolescents and young people who have been affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and live in border zone communities across the country.
During this sixteen-part course, young people study important skills,
self-awareness, stress management, emotional regulation, positive thinking, self-esteem, interpersonal communication, empathy, listening, dispute regulation, relationship regulation, goal setting, decision making, problem solving, critical and creative thinking, productivity skills, and resilience.
As part of the project, we visited Ijevan town in Tavush region where Hasmik Aleksanyan, UNICEF Adolescent Development Officer, and students from the local school shared their experience from the course with us. Since the start of the conflict, Tavush region has welcomed thousands of families that fled the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The conflict, coupled with the pandemic, brought forward many challenges for adolescents and young people in Armenia. We must learn to cope with emergencies and challenges with resilience and stress management. This is why, in response to the conflict, UNICEF launched this programme in order to give young people an opportunity to acquire the skills that will help them be better prepared for a variety of challenges, develop resilience, set goals and make the right decisions for themselves and their communities,”
“This course was really important to me. I think teaching of these skills should definitely be included in the school curriculum. We have a course on healthy lifestyle in our sophomore year, it would be perfect to integrate the teaching of life-saving skills in this course. That way, all students will be able to benefit and master these skills via the 16 lessons. To me, the most useful part was the goal-setting section: I realised that, first, I needed to assess the situation correctly and set more accurate goals. Most importantly, I have learned how to plan to achieve my goal in a step by step process,”
“We learned useful things that are especially important during adolescence. At school, we would not have learned these things for sure. It helped me realise that I should not become absorbed things and people that do not help me be efficient and healthy in life or that I should not do things that others want me to do or expect from me, if it doesn’t feel right. In other words, I have to know myself better. The course helped me better understand what I want in life and what I don’t want,”
“During the session, I asked the trainer psychologist for a ton of advice. She helped me a lot. I have learned to set boundaries in relationships. I have also worked on my interpersonal communication skills so that I do can communicate better and not find myself hurt or offend anyone else,”
“When I first started participating in the course, it felt like I already knew everything that they talked about, but then, in the process, I realized that it was very helpful to listen to my friends’ opinions. It helped me to become in charge of my own emotions and control my feelings better. I can get angry quickly, but now I have started taking things much easier. I think any young person can benefit from this course,”
“When I first found out about the possibility to take this course, I decided to participate with a great pleasure, and I am glad that I made this decision. During one of the sessions, we analysed our time management skills. It made me realise how much of my time I spent inefficiently. We all have ‘time thieves’ – mobile phones, gadgets or TV. We must control our time better to not waste it without a purpose and instead concentrate on spending out time more purposefully,”
“Oh, I really needed this course. It helped me to work on some of my negative traits. For example, I used to be very pessimistic, but I have become relatively more optimistic now. I try to find the good side in things and not just focus on the bad. If there was another course like this, I would tell my friends to take it and I would attend it myself again with great pleasure. After all, there are so few interesting activities for young people, especially for young girls, in our town,”
“Everyone needs these 16 lessons, here’s why. First, it creates agency with young people and a cooperative attitude. During our sessions, I felt that this was very important to them, while they felt appreciated and knew that there are people who care about their needs. Secondly, the content of the course is important. When you talk to young people about things that keep happening in their life, about things that they know or hear from here and there, the professional guidance and growth from the sessions come together like a puzzle and form a clearer picture for them on how they can act or cope with certain situations. To me, this is relevant even for primary school students if it’s done in an age-appropriate way,”