Story and photos by Heifer Armenia team
The history of the YES! Youth Clubs, established by Heifer Armenia with support from partner Development Principles NGO, goes back to 2002. At that time the first three clubs were established in the two communities of Sevan and Getap. The clubs are usually established in communities where classic Heifer projects have been implemented.
Ten years later, the number of YES! clubs has now grown to 29. The clubs methodology is based on the proven 4H youth leadership and development methodology introduced by the USDA Extension Program in the beginning of 20th century, and modified by Anahit Ghazanchyan to take into consideration Armenian realities.
YES!, which stands for Youth Empowered for Self-reliance, has the ultimate goal of empowering youth for self-reliance. Members, all ages 10-16, receive vocational training and extracurricular education in seven areas of youth leadership and education: agriculture, ecology, business education, civic education, health education, analytical reasoning (logical thinking) and journalism. In addition to in-class training, members participate in individual and group projects, such as: My Little Farm, Youth Ecological Police, My World of Business, Village Youth Parliament, Youth School of Health, the club newsletter and intellectual contests.
The youth interact in an atmosphere of mutual trust and warmth, enjoying the healthy communication environment within the club. The education makes children more organized and active members of society, and the youth have the freedom to choose which topics they pursue. Each club designs and holds various activities and events, including intellectual game competitions, excursions, hikes, and more.
Annual Youth Forums have been held since 2006 to summarize achievements, plan for upcoming years, present and discuss activities completed during the previous year, and share the accumulated knowledge on experiences and challenges encountered.
Besides the regular classes and practical work the club members are engaged in, the children also participate in exchange visits between the clubs from different communities. These help members share knowledge, ideas and experience in thematic areas covered by the clubs, participate in team activities, and get the best practical advice for challenges. Some of the exchange visits grow into active networking, which lead to joint projects and events. This kind of networking establishes a sense of competitiveness for quality, as well as a sense of union for power and success.
The clubs, being the only source of knowledge in the designated topics for rural youth, provide them with opportunities to develop creative and innovative thinking and leadership skills and empower them to become involved in their communities, propose solutions to local problems, and most importantly become active citizens of Armenia. Through various projects, children have the freedom to choose a subject area, gain knowledge about it, and participate in teamwork. This way, children gain practical experience in a subject area that may lead to a future profession.
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