How the Facing Difference Challenge is impacting youth in the South Caucasus Region

Posted by CARE on
Fri, 04/13/2018

Read how the participation of students from all over the world is making an impact through the Facing Difference Challenge! Hear stories of two young women; one from Armenia and the other from Georgia, and how their lives have been impacted through the programs run by CARE and supported by the Challenge.

Meet Milena Avetyan from Goris, Armenia

Milena Avetyan is a 14-year-old participant of the project “Building Bridges between youth” in the Armenian community of Goris and who attended the first regional youth conference in Tbilisi. Having many hobbies and interests, Mylena is very enthusiastic about communicating different people and gaining new friends. The project helped Milena to bring up her aspirations and come up with new ideas in building understanding and friendship around her.

Milena, like young people of her age, is busy with school and tries to occupy her free time with extracurricular activities, because as she says: “I don’t want to have a boring day”. Community in Goris, a small town in Armenia is slowly developing, but there are not many places to visit and entertain. That’s why Milena is dreaming to help her hometown develop more. Having math and English as her favorite subjects, Milena plans to use her skills in the future to create her own business and introduce her hometown to different people in other countries: “Goris is a unique cultural center. I want to fascinate people all over the world about my hometown so that many people to know about my homeland.”

Milena not only tries to interest other people in her culture, she is also very much curious about other countries and their customs. The positive mindset and willingness to appreciate diversity came from the training that Milena regularly attended at Goris “Center of languages and skills” to learn about different issues. Milena says, that the training were very important for her and taught to accept differences. The highlights of the training for Milena were the training on communication with different people and tolerance. “The training about communication was very important for me. I understood that we might face communication problems in real life and then we’ll try to solve them. After the training I think I’m a different person. The program about tolerance was very nice and we all understood that being tolerant is very important for everyone’s personal development”.

Training helped Milena think about solving regional problems with communication and dialogue: “We discussed how to solve our regional conflicts, of course, we can’t solve everything, but as we are a group of good people. I think we can find answers”.

Milena was one of the four participants of the first regional youth conference from Armenia. Here she put the given knowledge in practice as she met a lot of young people and really started to understand the importance of diversity: “Difference is a good thing, I think every country must have their own differences, challenges, everyone has their beauty. People have their own hobbies and interests, but everyone is the same person, with two eyes, one nose.”

Most importantly, the project helped Milena become more active in her initiatives and focus on building friendships not only around her, but for her peers too. After the training, Milena had an idea to form “International friendship club” in her community. Starting from her fellow Armenians, she wants to make the club more international, inviting young people from other countries and have Skype conversations with them. “If you want to develop, you must know other countries, what they like to do, what are their interests, it’s very important to me. This is international friendship and this program gave me this chance. I know more than I’ve ever known.”

Meet Mariam Buturishvili from Nikozi, Georgia

Mariam is the participant of the project “Building Bridges between youth” in Georgia, Nikozi community. Being raised up in the village, which is close to the conflict zone and breakaway region of Georgia, building understanding and teaching tolerance is especially important. Training that Mariam had on tolerance and diversity helped her and her friends analyze the issues around them and think and understand better.

Mariam, a 15-year-old girl dreams of becoming a lawyer and is actively involved in community life to improve the local situation. Her school in village Nikozi is the only high school where students from all three villages gather and spend most of their day. Life after school isn’t usually very exciting, as the small community she lives in, lacks lots of simple necessities, such as stadiums, books for the library, internet access. That’s why a small training room situated in the center of the village is an important highlight for Mariam and her friends to learn and understand something new.  Living in the area that lacks opportunities, young people were often deprived of information, networks, and connections with their peers. Mariam tells us, many of her peers are still affected by traditional upbringings and stereotypes, such as about the roles of women in a society.

It’s difficult to change the attitudes at one time, but the training held in Nikozi helped the youth become more tolerant towards each other’s views and break from unrealistic stereotypes and attitudes. For Mariam, the most memorable of the training were the ones about stereotypes and diversity, and teamwork and communication, where she could observe how the minds of herself and her friends were changing. Stereotyping is the issue that bothers Mariam the most and reflects a lot about it: “I thought a lot, I analyzed every mistake I was making before, because of lack of information or knowledge about some of the topics”. Learning how to communicate and appreciate different opinions was another discovery, as Mariam observed changing attitudes from her and her friends: “This was special for me because my friends, who would never consider each other opinions before, learned to listen and put the given information in their minds, they started to understand each other more and listen to each other’s different opinions”.

Mariam was also one of the active participant in the first regional youth conference held in Tbilisi, which was particularly important, where she met a lot of new young people and formed new friendships: “This is very memorable for me, because I met a lot of friends, we understood each other and learned that we have the same issues to solve”. Despite a lot of problems in her community, Mariam tells us, that the young people in Nikozi are eager to communicate with children from different ethnic groups and learn from them: “I think a lot of my friends are enjoying communicating with others as I do”. For Mariam “diversity is a beauty because the differences cause diversity and it’s beautiful. On the other hand, it becomes the reason for ethnic and racial clashes between people, and this is the bad side”-she says and wishes her peers to be also free of negative stereotypes. That is what the training aim for in Nikozi community.

With the help of the project, Mariam has become an active representative in her community and has many ideas to solve the issues which she doesn’t like. The youth like Mariam, are more encouraged to become leaders in their communities and lead to changing the reality around young people’s lives.

You can find more information on the Facing Difference Challenge here.