Sunday, June 10, 2007

NGO presentation

It’s a warm Saturday afternoon, and around 20 youths are gathered in the locations of the World Independent Youth Union (WIYU). I was invited there to hold a presentation about the Red Cross, Norway and to share my experiences from Armenia. The setting was informal and the questions many.
Can you understand what's written on my shirt?

It is always nice to meet other youths doing volunteer work. From the moment I walked in to the room I got a good feeling about the group. We stared out with an ice-breaker; witch gave a laughing start to the presentation. Then I gave a brief introduction about the Red Cross/Red Crescent, and Armenian Red Cross Society’s work. Although the youths were interested in The Red Cross, it was easy to tell that my presentation about Norway raised the most thoughts and questions. What does Norway do when it comes to protecting the environment? How can I study in Norway? Why are you not a part of the European Union?

After sweating a bit in the warm room trying to give sensible answers to all the questions I was asked, I showed some pictures from my work. Then it was my turn to see the fruits of their work. One of the guys proudly presented pictures drawn by children with handicaps, from his group.

Reading the RC newsletter and looking at pictures from Norway.

After my short meeting with this NGO I am happy to see that there are so many engaged young people in Armenia, and I hope that WIYU and the Armenian Red Cross can cooperate together in the future.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Inspiring Youth Conference

On June 6th the 4th youth conference was held for the Youth Department in the ARCS. A new youth board was elected, a sum op of the work done the last 6 years was presented, and there were discussions about the future work and goals for the youth.

The conference stared with welcoming words from the President, Mr Mnatsakanyan. He talked about the importance of volunteerism, the important work that is done by the youths in Red Cross, before he ended his speech with some encouraging words to the audience.

“I expect you to continue your good work with the same enthusiasm and energy as you have now.”

After the presidents speech we got a brief overview of the activities of the youths, before two short presentations from Armenia’s two youth representatives involved in committees in the Red Cross family were held.

During the discussion of what the youths should work with for the next years there was a focus on targeting the beneficiaries, fundraising in the regions, cooperation with other youth NGOs and different social programs.

I was an "election observer"

Then the focus shifted to the youth board, and all the candidates introduced them selves and answered questions from the audience. One of the main concerns from the audience was the candidates’ willingness to spend a lot of time working with the youth board, and how they would face possible difficulties due to distance. There was also a discussion if the meetings should be held in Yerevan or rotate between the regions.


Counting the votes

Then it was time to vote, count the votes and introduce the winners. The audience was Venstrejusterapplauding loudly when the names war read, and they seemed very content with the new board.

The new youth board

After the elections, it was time for Pizza before most of the participants went on a long and warm bus ride back to the regions. Hopefully, they will bring with them the words of the President and continue their work with energy and enthusiasm.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Pictures from Children's Day

Want some ice??

Hurry up, the ice is melting!

Christmas and children's day at the same time..


Bad boys

Can you see any fish?

Youth Deligates in action

Going home after a long day in the park

Sunday, June 3, 2007

City Children in Soft Grass

In less than 40 minutes the surroundings has changed from hot asphalt to soft grass. 60 eager feet run out of the bus. It is children’s day and we are going to Yerevan’s botanical garden for a day filled with fun for the children and the Red Cross volunteers.

The group is divided into two, and while the older kids are guided around in the greenhouse, we play games with the younger ones. We introduce “potato running” and “bag jumping”, and the children love it. The volunteers are eager to try as well, but unfortunately they are too busy with trying to make the children stand in line.

When the older children come back from the greenhouse it’s our turn too take a look at the exotic plants of Yerevan. Although the greenhouse looks like it’s going to fall down, and the plants looks like they grow wilder there than in the jungle, the children do not seem to care. They are exited about everything, from remembering the names of plants when asked, to looking at fish in a very dirty pond. As for me, I have to admit that I also got a bit exited when the old woman who is guiding us suddenly picks up a turtle and holds it in front of us.

Then it is time for ice cream, hot dogs and drinks. It seems like the children could not be more content, but when the girls get colourful handmade bracelets and the boys get sunglasses they are walking around with a grin on their face so big I am afraid that their face will burst.
After a day filled with fun the children again sit in the warm bus. However after spending around 5 hours in the sun they are remarkably calmer than when they came. On their way back to the dormitory one can imagine them sitting in the bus still tasting the thick juicy piece of watermelon we gave them just before departure, and looking at the scratches on their legs as a result of a day running freely around in the soft grass of the botanical garden.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Will We Get a Youth Board With "the Red Cross Spirit" in Their Blood?

“We want to make our work more productive, so we decided to make a youth board” explains the youth leader of Gyumri, Lusine Alikharyan. Last week youth leaders from each of the regions in Armenia were gathered to discuss the future development and organization of the youth department.

The youth department has been working on re-organizing their structures for about 4 years now, and the establishment of a youth board is one of the final steps.

Lusine has been a volunteer for 8 years, and explains that Red Cross is like her second home. “I’m a Red Cross volunteer in my blood” she says before she continues to explain how the youth board will be organized. ”The youth board will focus on different spheres; among these are recruitment, international cooperation, dissemination, fundraising, development of educational programs, and regional development.”

The monthly meetings are important says Lusine, “after every meeting we return to the regions with new ideas and enthusiasm. I would like such evens to be held more often, and not only for the leaders but also for the volunteers.”

At the meeting the youth leaders were asked to nominate active volunteers as candidates for the youth board. The elections will be held in June, and hopefully the candidates will be devoted volunteers with “the Red Cross spirit” in their blood just as Lusine Alikharyan.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Renovation Rescuers

The Norwegian Refugee Counsel (NRC) has decided to help us renovate our new Smiley Club room in the Shirak dormitory. After working for about 10 years with building and renovating houses for refugees in Armenia, they have a lot of experience from the country.

Nils A. Sivertsen Country director of the NRC

One of their specialists took a look at our new room and concluded that a lot of renovation is needed. “The bathroom & toilet above needs a total rehabilitation; additional concrete on the floor, new tiles, repair of the water system.” Your" room needs to have new ceiling, plastering, painting and new floor.”

The NRC does not have the possibility to do the actual work, but has offered to pay for the renovation. A wave of happiness and relief spread trough the office of the youth department when they heard about the good news. Money, or lack of money, is always an issue here, and now we know that the money we intended to use for renovation can be used on more concrete activities for the children.

The NRC is facing out of Armenia, after having achieved their mission of giving all the refugees in Armenia a home. However, in a room in Yerevan, the organizations good will can be seen for years to come when volunteers from the Red Cross have activities and lessons for children at the Shirak dormitory.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

English Speaking Volunteers Needed!

During breaks at the Linguistic University in Yerevan, the students were given information about the Smiley Club program. We were especially targeting students who speak English to strengthen the English lessons with the children. The response from the students was positive, and we managed to inform over 80 students about our program. When asked, many of them were so interested that they put down their name and phone number. Tomorrow we’ll go to the Teachers College to spread the word about Smiley Club. So that hopefully we’ll have many new volunteers working on strengthening the English skills of the Smiley Club children.