A new generation that deserves a chance. Emilia's story

UPSHIFT has set the necessary environment for adolescents to grow aware of their unique role in the betterment of their community

Fernando Rejon Sanchez
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Ghazaryan

10 October 2019

“Giving instructions to a couple of construction workers installing a solar panel is not something a young girl like me usually does. At first they wouldn’t take me seriously but now I am more confident and aware of my potential”.

Emilya is one of the 50 adolescents who have taken part in the first edition of UPSHIFT in Gyumri, a program on youth empowerment launched by UNICEF Armenia in coordination with the local organization “Youth Initiative Centre”. Emilya’s team decided to improve the outdoor facilities of their youth center by installing a USB charger powered by solar energy. “When many adolescents come to the center at the same time, there isn’t enough space inside to run collective activities, so we thought that we could make the outdoor area more comfortable for our peers”. Emilya and her friends took on that challenge, presented their proposal and were eventually awarded some seed-funding to materialise their project. After 4 months of intense work, they have created a cozy and agreeable area where one can enjoy the summer weather while charging their phone in a eco-friendly manner.

 

UNICEF Armenia/2019/Publicis

She had never embarked on a project of social entrepreneurship nor did she have any idea about how a solar panel could possibly work yet she was determined to use this opportunity to contribute to her community and improve the place where she spends long hours with her friends. In Emilya’s view, ordinary schools do not always promote young people’s curiosity and that’s why UPSHFT’s outreach events immediately sparked her interest.  She believes that her generation has the creativity, originality and innovative ideas that many adults lack. Asked about how she envisions Gyumri in the future, she responds with a wide smile that she imagines it as place where “youngsters decide the future of their town, being part of the decision-making process”. Emilya speaks passionately about how UPSHIFT has impacted her.

UNICEF Armenia/2019/Publicis

Thank’s to UPSHIFT Emilia has learnt to stand up for her ideas, negotiate with her other teammates and express her opinions more effectively.

Every day came with a different challenge coupled with a new lesson on how to plan a project, decide on budget or address technical issues. In order to overcome these obstacles, her team engaged those professionals who could offer their expertise on carpentry, solar energy or technology. Emilya was in charge of coordinating a group of young volunteers who helped the team build the installation and she describes that it was her first experience leading a team. Even though it was challenging at first, she enjoyed being able to develop her leadership skills. In fact, she has now decided that she wants to study management or human resources at university. She recognizes that before participating in UPSHIFT she was clueless about her future, but she is now determined to develop her newly-discovered abilities.

Girls are not supposed ride a bicycle or lead a team neither are they expected to play football. These are the stereotypes that, in Emilya’s words, have shaped her upbringing. UPSHIFT has enabled her to break with some of those stereotypes, prove her value and develop an active role in her community. Emilya is part of a new generation that’s coming to transform Armenia, a new generation that deserves a chance, a new cohort of young Armenian adolescents ready to work for the development of their communities. UPSHIFT has made Emilya, and other youngsters like her, aware of their capabilities to address new issues with innovative solutions.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”. These words pronounced by the Italian sculptor Michelangelo perfectly describe that’s at stake.

The Armenian youth wants to have a say in the future they will live in. Enormous potential and bright ideas are held by the young members of the Armenian community. UPSHIFT has set the necessary environment for those ideas to flourish so that adolescents grow aware of their unique role in the betterment of their communities.