The youth of any country is one of the valuable capitals that plays indispensible role in shaping the future of the country. For Armenia as a developing country with high levels of emigration, the rural youth and its empowerment has even more than strategic importance for the future of the country. The Armenian rural youth needs to be encouraged to live, work on the native land and create and most importantly make all the possible efforts to see their native land prosperous and its people living in stable social-economic conditions and experiencing sustainable development.
For more than a decade, Heifer Armenia and its partner Development Principles NGO have significantly contributed to the development and empowerment of the rural youth by establishing and running YES youth clubs in different regions of Armenia. The YES Youth Clubs provide vocational training and extracurricular education to the rural youth aged 10-17.
The Youth Clubs also provide the rural youth with opportunities to develop creative and innovative thinking and leadership skills, thus empowering them to become involved in their communities, propose solutions to local problems, and most importantly become active citizens of Armenia.
Yet the partnership of Heifer Armenia and Development Principles contributes not only to the empowerment of the youth club members but also their alumni who already start making their first steps into their adulthood. In this regard it has already become a tradition for this successful partnership to annually retreat the rural youth in the framework of YES Youth Clubs’ Alumni Annual Forum.
This year the Annual Forum of YES Youth Clubs Alumni was held on 11 February and gathered around 50 alumni from different youth clubs. The forum was organized to discuss the salient issues that the rural youth face as well as to propose the best possible solutions to those issues.
During the meeting Heifer Armenia Country Director Ms. Anahit Ghazanchyan presented new opportunities for the rural youth to be engaged in an EU-funded regional cooperation project – Youth Action for Regional Coherence and Cooperation (YARCC project) which is expected to increase awareness and appreciation of the youth regarding fundamental values of EU and the rich cultural diversity in the Black Sea Basin. The project will also enhance the ability of the youth to participate in healthy discussions and debates with youth from other regions in the Black Sea Basin. And most importantly in the framework of this project an extended network of Youth Clubs and youth Centers in the Black Sea Basin will be created for enhanced regional cooperation.
Ms. Anahit Ghazanchyan also encouraged the rural youth to participate in other youth projects such as Youth Leadership Retreat entitled Miracle Corners of the World. Last year Ms. Shushan Grigoryan, one of the Alumni of Sevan Youth Club participated in MCW YLR and shared her impressions and experience with the participants of the Annual Alumni forum 2013. Shushan shared her presentation that she made in the USA during MCW YLR. Shushan’s presentation was devoted to her vision plan about her community’s general wellbeing and the necessity to establish youth retraining and leisure centers to bring new interest into and somehow change the monotonous life of the youth in her native community of Sevan.
To motivate the rural youth to stay in their native village, work and create, Anna Arakelyan, Expert on Business Education and Vice-President of the Development Principles NGO proposed rural tourism as a type of business that can stimulate alternative economic development in rural Armenia. Ms. Anna Arakelyan stressed the strengths of starting the business of ecotourism and agro tourism in rural areas of Armenia since every single rural corner of Armenia is remarkable for its nature, cultural heritage, sights and traditions. The presentation was followed by myriad questions on rural tourism which proved the strong interest of the youth in the proposed business area.
The youth participating in the meeting were proposed to work on and present their community vision plans for possible future cooperation in the framework of community development projects implemented by Heifer Armenia and DP NGO in different regions of Armenia.
At the end of the gathering the youth clubs’ alumni expressed their gratitude for once more updating them about the new youth projects they may apply for and become potential participants. Many of them sincerely shared that they are happy to be members of the strong and efficient network of the YES Youth Clubs’ Alumni which is continuously empowered by the efficient partnership of Heifer Armenia and Development Principles NGO.
By Liana Hayrapetyan
Communications and PR Officer