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Story by Knarine Ghazanchyan | Program and Training Coordinator | Heifer Armenia
Translated by Emma Sargsyan | Media Coordinator | Heifer Armenia
An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
- Benjamin Franklin
November 3, 2012, will be remembered as a remarkable day on Heifer International’s calendar: it was the 10th anniversary of the first YES! Youth Club established by Heifer Armenia.
Through the Peace to Our Homes Umbrella Project, the first rural youth club, Island of Justice, was founded by Heifer Armenia in 2002 in partnership with the local NGO, Development Principles. This was a new type of investment in Heifer history−a totally different component in the traditional Heifer model of providing animals to needy rural families. The establishment of the club intended to empower rural youth and change the social lives of their community. The club would provide extracurricular education on agriculture, healthy lifestyles and civic education.
The teaching methodology was adopted from the 4H youth club model, a youth leadership and development methodology introduced by USDA Extension Program at the beginning of the 20th century. The methodology was changed a bit and adapted to the fit Armenian reality by Dr. Anahit Ghazanchyan, country director for Heifer Armenia. The club not only provided knowledge and skills, but also developed leadership qualities in children by enhancing their communication abilities and providing them with the opportunities to make the best choice of future professions.
As in any undertaking, the first steps were the most important and the hardest. Professional experts from prominent organizations were invited to conduct the trainings, and then local trainers, who had completed the Training of Trainers (TOT), were allowed to teach in the youth clubs.
As for the children, everything was new to them: the materials, teaching method, teacher attitudes. The overall approach was different from the approach they received in the local school. More than 30 schoolchildren attended each direction, and children from neighboring villages Varser and Lchashen also actively attended the youth club in Sevan, even on cold and snowy winter days.
As years passed, the activities of the club expanded. Now there are seven directions functioning in the club, with journalism, ecology, logical thinking and business education added to the existing three directions. Club members participated in Heifer regional gatherings in Armenia and Georgia. In addition, five members of the club together with members from youth clubs in other Armenian communities visited Poland on a study tour last year. Moreover, in the summer of 2012 one of the YES! Youth Club alumni was selected to participate in the 15th Annual “Miracle Corners of the World” Youth Leadership Retreat in the USA.
Many club alumni, now adults, have received higher education in legal studies, economics, medicine and journalism. Some have created families and have their own children. However, club members and alumni gather together and organize events at the club that has become so dear and close to their hearts. During the 10th anniversary of Sevan’s YES! Youth Club, members and alumni shared memories and feelings about their time spent in the club and expressed words of gratitude and appreciation.
Heifer representatives were happy and excited to see four generations of students all full of the same enthusiasm and curiosity.
We wish you many years of prosperity our dear Sevan Youth Club!