In a heart-warming tale of collaboration and empowerment, Sona Hovsepian and Marine Mkhitaryan, two young women who didn’t know each other before joining the EU4Youth Alumni network, joined forces to create the ‘YouthMix’ initiative. Their aim was to address the challenges faced by young people with fewer opportunities in different regions and communities in Armenia. Over the course of four months, Sona and Marine worked tirelessly to involve these marginalised young people in youth work, to enhance their skills, and open the doors to new opportunities.
The primary goal of the YouthMix initiative was to shed light on the shared struggles experienced by young people living in various regions of Armenia. By showcasing how these different challenges could be overcome through non-formal education and personal development, the team sought to inspire their peers to embrace their potential. The initiative included workshops on topics such as media literacy, financial literacy, building a CV, and public speaking. Following each workshop, participants were assigned homework to be completed in mixed groups, fostering collaboration and understanding.
The months of hard work culminated in a two-day camp, providing a platform for participants to express their thoughts and opinions on various topics. Through group work and presentations, the participants showcased the results of their endeavours, which ultimately earned them well-deserved certificates. The fruits of their development were evident, as the beneficiaries emerged more open-minded, confident, active, and enterprising.
Robert Melkonyan, one of the YouthMix beneficiaries, says: “I want to say a special thanks to the organisers. They have done their best to make this project inclusive and productive. As a result of this project I managed to apply to an international exchange programme and be chosen as a participant.”
What sets the YouthMix initiative apart is being led by the example of Marine and Sona, who also forged a connection to each other despite hailing from different regions. They discovered that they had encountered similar obstacles throughout their lives, which inspired them to create a space where young people could overcome such challenges together.
By sharing their own experiences, they aimed to demonstrate that equal opportunities for growth and development exist for everyone, regardless of their circumstances. Sona feels very satisfied seeing so many young beneficiaries participate in their project: “I didn’t have such an opportunity when I was their age. Now, I always encourage youngsters to take risks and chances, because these kinds of projects always become life changing experiences.”
Initially unsure if their idea would come to fruition, Sona and Marine were pleasantly surprised to witness participants actively engaging with one another, bridging gaps and forming meaningful connections. The initiative successfully brought together 24 young people, encouraging them to recognise shared issues and support each other’s involvement in youth projects. The importance of non-formal education, networking, and exchange programmes was highlighted, fostering communication and collaboration between peers from different regions.
Eighty per cent of participants had never been involved in such projects before. This presented a significant challenge for both the coordinators and the participants themselves. Marine and Sona would have regular phone conversations to brainstorm ideas on how to make the workshops more interesting, inclusive, and interactive. After each successful session, Marine would exclaim, “Yes, we did it this time! Now I need to drink coffee and do nothing. I gave all my energy to them.”
The impact of the YouthMix initiative on the lives of the participants is remarkable. The initiative catered to marginalised young people aged 14-18 from the Yeghvard and Voskehat communities. Many of them experienced profound changes in their mindset, goals, and worldview. Notably, four participants were given the opportunity to participate in Erasmus+ youth exchange programmes abroad, immersing themselves in new cultures and gaining invaluable experiences. Additionally, one participant applied for a programming study programme, opening doors to a potential career path.
The YouthMix initiative stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and the transformative impact it can have on the lives of marginalised youth. Through the dedication and vision of Sona and Marine, these young individuals have developed their confidence and skills, and discovered opportunities for personal growth. By highlighting shared struggles and fostering a sense of unity, the initiative has created a ripple effect that will continue to empower and inspire young people for years to come.
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