UPSHIFT Spitak brings together young people to develop solutions for a positive impact in Spitak
Funded by the European Union, UNICEF in partnership with Gyumri Youth Initiative Centre NGO empowers young people of Spitak to develop and test solutions to community issues.
The next stop of UPSHIFT program in 2021 took place in the northern town of Spitak in Lori region. With funding from the European Union, UNICEF in partnership with Gyumri Youth Initiative Centre NGO invited adolescents and young people of Spitak to develop solutions to a range of community issues that they identified. Ten teams of boys and girls came together to identify and target community issues and they were most concerned with ecology, urban planning, healthy lifestyle, preservation of cultural heritage, inclusion, gender equality, promotion of reading and quality free time.
On 12-13 July, the teams came together in a bootcamp to further refine and pitch their projects to the jury. There was utter silence in the hall at Czech school as the teams focused on their project presentations after a month and a half of laborious work with expert consultants to refine them.
As the teams engaged in group work, it was evident how self-confident the participants had grown. Throughout this process, the teams accumulated new skills and knowledge, things they aren't necessarily taught at school. They have learned how to structure their concepts, outline project implementation, and find feasible solutions to technical issues. UPSHIFT has served them as a platform where they found a common ground, made friends and learned firsthand from various professionals.
The suspense of waiting is the most exciting moment. The teams are now done with their pitches and the jury is going to select 5 out of 10 teams.
And the winners are - Audio Center, Community Park, Football for All, White Book and Eco-Pen! These teams will be provided with seed funding to implement their projects. Last but not least, Spitak municipality selected its own winner - the Garden of Smiles team working on community park improvement, while a member of the jury and an entrepreneur pledged to support the Football for Everyone team.
Here's what each project is going to be about:
Audio Center team is concerned with the fact that not many people in the community usually read. The team has tried to find the reasons behind this. The city library is on the outskirts, it is not replenished with new authors or with newer editions. At the age of technology, the team members are convinced that with the availability of audiobooks, many children and adults alike will be drawn back to reading.
“We want our audio center to be in the park, surrounded by green and beauty, equipped with audiobooks, where readers could detach themselves from everyday issues and immerse in literature under the roof of our center, using the audio material of their choice,” said Meruzhan Markosyan, 15 “We are very happy that our idea was chosen and singled out by the jury. We will develop it further and prove that reading is always trendy.”
“When UPSHIFT was presented at our school, our team thought about the state of our park. We surveyed the community and found out that the shabby state of the park area concerns not only us and other young people, but other people as well. It deprives us of green space, quality time in the nature and leisure. We are very happy that our project was considered important,” shared Tatevik Badalyan, 15.
This is the first time that Tatevik is participating in such a project and assures that she wasn't as nervous about presenting the project as she was about hearing the results being announced. “Fortunately, we succeeded. UPSHIFT is the start for me, I will always participate in community initiatives from now on as I've accumulated a lot of skills and knowledge.”
Football for All
This is a team of seniors from Spitak High School that wants to repair and improve the school football field. Moreover, the team also wants to establish Spitak’s first girls' youth football team.
“As we are getting ready to graduate, we chose this endeavor as a sign of gratitude and a positive example for the generations to come. We want to convey a caring, helpful attitude so that everyone learns to value our community and our environment. We have outlined everything from organization to upkeep of the field. By the way, before being included in the list of winners, our idea has inspired many, and many individuals have already expressed their willingness to help,” shared Elizabet Danielyan, 17.
White Book members came up with another solution to the lack of reading in the community. The team plans to put together a mobile tent-based library that will go around the community, reaching the young and old. Members of the community will be informed about the mobile library through social networks, local media, events, and word of mouth. The group plans a number of engaging events that will spark interest in the community to attend and start book clubs.
Gohar Ghorukhchyan, 13, of Eco-Pen team, which scored the highest points among the winning teams, explained their concern about eco-efficiency in the community. “We understood that if we aren’t the ones to do something about it in our community, who would? We know how difficult the issue that we have raised is, but we are confident that we can do something about it. We have done the research, we know how much garbage each household creates every day and how much waste is thrown into nature. But we also see the experience of the world, we see different attempts at recycling garbage. We have chosen our method of sorting garbage - creating ecological pens from waste paper. We know that it will also give an opportunity for people in our community to pay attention to the process of garbage collection and to inspire new ideas related to it. We are very happy that our idea won.”
Young people of Spitak are full of potential to improve their community and hope for more opportunities and projects like UPSHIFT. They just need to be given the chance and be empowered to learn, work on solutions and bring a positive influence to Spitak!
UPSHIFT Spitak in short
This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Future Today project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.