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By Lusine Hayrapetyan | Heifer Armenia Expert | Development Principles NGO
Have you ever emptied the trash can right in the middle of your house? Even the idea of it makes you object with a subconscious “No! That's impossible!" Now imagine for a moment, that the walls of your house don’t exist and you are an inhabitant of planet Earth, not a town or city, and nature is your home. Would you care about it just as much as you care about your house or apartment? If we just think of our "home" as a place with four walls and some rooms, we can tend to be careless about what happens outside those walls.
To avoid this kind of thinking and to instill caring about nature from an early age, Heifer Armenia partners with Development Principles to teach young people to become active and caring citizens. July was the month of ecology at the YES youth clubs under the motto "Nature is our home; let's keep it clean." Health and ecological issues were on the agenda and different initiatives were organized with specific goals and target areas. Sevan Lake, often called “Armenia’s Beauty,” was the target area of the first initiative, emphasizing the strategic importance of the lake for Armenians.
For this initiative, 90 members of six YES youth clubs combined efforts to clear the beaches of the lake from waste and garbage left behind. Youth from the communities of Verin Getashen, Nurnus, Khor Virap, Arpi, Areni and Getap arrived at the Norashen reserve with great enthusiasm. For some of the young volunteers this was their first visit to Sevan, which, of course, increased their excitement.
Mr. Malkasyan, the head of Sevan National Park, greeted the initiators and participants and promised to support them with plows and garbage trucks. The youth were divided into three groups to clean the polluted parts of the reserve. Representatives of the Sevan National Park, Arsen Ghazaryan and Mamikon Aslanyan, noted that the reserve has never been visited by such a caring and enthusiastic group of youth.
The youth also had the opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns regarding the current situation at the lake and offered possible solutions. Pointing towards the garbage bags that they had collected one of the youth, Anna, said that "Lake Sevan is really very beautiful, but it is polluted and needs to be taken care of." Arsen Harutyunyan (a future doctor) sang a song about Sevan, while Varduhi from Khor Virap wrote a poem about it as well as working hard to clean up as much garbage as possible.
After a break, the second part of the event started with a presentation of posters created by the youth on the ecological situation at the lake, as well as reports and discussions. The youth discussed the lake and demonstrated their knowledge about its history and ecological problems. Nairi, from Getap, presented interesting information on the reserve such as that it is home to about 250 species of animals, of which 39 are on the verge of extinction. The campaign wrapped up with a Queston and Answer session, again demonstrating how active and well informed the youth were on this topic.
After the campaign, which lasted three hours, the youth gathered to eat and have a discussion. One thing was clear; this campaign not only helped to get rid of the waste that polluted the lake, it also made sure that none of these youth would ever pollute the lake and its surroundings. As Ashot Martirosyan, a youth trainer from Areni, said, "Such campaigns are necessary for the kids to understand that they need to take care of not only their family and friends. Nature needs their care as well. With such an attitude a lot can be changed."
Our planet certainly is a living organism, with human beings as a major component. If we change the size of the planet in our imaginations and make it smaller, the reality around us will change in a blink of an eye. The sun will become the heart of that living organism; the sky will become the soul, the water the flesh, the forests and trees the lungs, and man, the mind of it.
Learn how you can be a part of the exciting changes in Armenia through Heifer International.