A youth center by young people from Shinuhayr, Syunik
Young people of Shinuhayr mobilize to establish SHEN center to develop their village.
What happens when a dozen active, brilliant, energetic young people get together? A fun party, you might think. Yet in Shinuhayr village of Syunik, this group of young people established a brand-new youth center, one that their village never had. It just happened that one day they got together and decided that they too need their own place in the village to network and collaborate on new projects for their own growth, as well as for the future of their village.
Pretty soon, led by Garik Hayrapetyan, 18, they applied to the youth project competition, organized by Awesome Foundation, UNICEF and UNFPA for the International Youth Day in August 2021. Their project was one of the winners, receiving a modest sum of seed funding from UNICEF. A year later, in August 2022, Garik and his friends opened the doors to Shinuhayr’s youth initiative, or as they call it, SHEN. In Armenian, SHEN is the root word of Shinuhayr and means prosperous or well cared for.
“SHEN is an incubator of self-education. This is a place where young people can come and educate themselves on things not addressed by the school curricula. It’s a place where we will mobilize to actively participate in community life and the future development of our village,” shared Garik Hayrapetyan.
“We needed three things to accomplish this task: a good team, common sense and courage. In our case, we are a big team: a group of young people, the school director and teachers, master Rustam, who helped us a lot with the renovation, our parents and all the organizations that were by our side. With our example, we made sure that there are many like-minded people and supporters, all that remains is to have a good idea and be able to find those like-minded people.”
“We have been working as a team for a year now. We didn’t have a place to meet up, so we would gather in different places – at school after classes, on the bleachers in front of the school, or at our houses. We planned the opening ceremony mostly through Zoom. At first, it seemed easy, but looking back, we put a lot of time and effort into having this center open today. It was an incredible feeling when we got the UNICEF award last year. That was a turning point, as we got the initial funding and got down to business. Soon we realized that we still had a lot to do and not enough money, so we found other competitions and started applying around. We also won a grant from AYO Foundation. Everything slowly came together like a puzzle,”
“Here we go - our center is finally open!!! We have been waiting for this day for so long. We can now embark on designing and implementing new programmes for the community. For example, there is no park in our village, and I want to change that. I did a bit of research, as I knew that there were initial plans, but they stopped somewhere, so we will try to move things forward. I want our center to be super busy!”
She is now taking online courses in French and Turkish and has set herself the goal that when she learns these languages well, she will personally organize and teach courses for other young people at the center.
“We have many interesting books here, which you cannot find at the school library. I have already managed to read some of them. I loved ‘The Fall’. Next, I'm going to read ‘Gone with the Wind’. I was waiting for that book for some time now,” said Anna, 16, a future doctor, and continued, “Besides the book club, we will also organize seminars on topics that are not taught at school. Besides the book club, we will also organize seminars on topics that are not taught at school,”
Young people of Shinuhayr unanimously state that children and young people alike are very active in the village, there are just very few opportunities for them to contribute. For them, SHEN is a new page to find those opportunities, pass along to each other, and direct that great energy towards solving issues in the community. So, this month, they will organize a village clean-up outing day.
“Every young person across Tatev community can be a member of our center. I will only be happy if the young people from nearby villages become members of our team. So, ARI SHEN [come to Shen]!” declares Ellen.
The public school of Shinuhayr allocated one of the available classrooms for the center. Then, the bigger group got down to work and demolished the walls in one day. They say it was easy to tear down, but more difficult to build.
“There were many days when we stayed up late at night, painted, cleaned, collected. We have been a part of every step. The result proves that if young people set their minds to something, they do it. You can start from the smallest, even if you do a little work at school, then you can gather other active young people, set a goal and achieve it together,” said Anna.
“This has helped me realize that that I can change a lot of things. In fact, at first, it all seemed easier to me, but in the process, we faced huge problems. The important thing is that we didn't break down but worked on solving the problems one by one and we moved forward!” Louisa added.
“They say, ‘taking a risk is half of the job’ but I would say that ‘asking the right questions is half the job’,” noted Garik. “If young people want to start doing something, they should start by examining the problem - why are they doing it, why do they need it, what needs to be done and so on. Then, you need to gather a team of like-minded people and just get started, using the Internet and all other opportunities will.”
Young people of Shinuhayr gave the village a new start, and they want to pass this call to their peers in other communities across Armenia.
It is interesting to see what will happen in other settlements if and when a group of young girls and boys get together.
Because, it’s their turn, their time, and their future.