Sometimes a small chance can change the directions of our lives by Grigor Yeritsyan
Context of Author
I am currently a student at the College of Europe studying in the field of European Studies and I am one of the founders and a key youth worker/trainer in the youth NGO Armenian Progressive Youth.
In Armenia there were not so many opportunities to discover and experience youth work and non-formal education, let alone international youth work! In 2007 this all changed for me, I was given the chance to attend a training course. I found youth work and non-formal education and have never looked back. I helped found and now work with probably the biggest youth NGO in Armenia.
Story in Full
To begin with, I live in Armenia – a mountainous country in the South Caucasus. We are proud of our beautiful nature, hospitable people and sad about closed borders and conflicts with our neighbours. Due to isolation and other social-economic circumstances young people in Armenia are not fully benefiting from international mobility opportunities and therefore do not travel frequently. Most young people in Armenia at this time were not aware about international trainings, youth exchanges or other educational opportunities of the European Commission or the Council of Europe. This kind of information was carefully kept by ‘non-transparent’ youth organizations or corrupted student unions, so only a limited number of ‘chosen’ people could benefit.
The situation changed for me however when I was a student. In 2007 I learnt from one of my colleagues that there was a possibility to attend a training course abroad. More surprisingly, it would cover all my expenses. This sounded amazing for an average Armenian student who has never travelled abroad before. Back then, I was an ordinary first year bachelor student of Political Science with neither clear goals about his future, nor about active engagement in the society. However, things absolutely changed when I discovered the world of non-formal education and youth work.
My excitement about this training course was huge and I made one of the greatest decisions of my life to join it. This was the first time I entered the world of youth work and non-formal education. Allowing me to gain this experience turned my life upside down. Meeting other young people from various countries, making international friendships, exchanging ideas and communicating in a foreign language opened up a completely new reality for me.
Coming back home and sharing my impressions with friends and course mates, I came up with an idea to spread the word about such opportunities amongst other young people. A year later together with other motivated and ambitious young people we established a youth organization. The aim was to support personal and professional development of young people in Armenia by engaging them in non-formal education activities and increasing their access to training and mobility opportunities.
And here my story of a youth worker begins. As for many young people it was not easy to start something new. Lobbying our ideas, gaining support and engaging young people on a voluntary basis in a conservative society where young people didn’t have any stance and were not taken seriously, was a challenge indeed.
As time passed, the engagement in youth work helped me and my colleagues to grow from volunteers into highly competent young professionals: activists, leaders, youth workers, trainers, facilitators. Today our organization is one of the largest youth organizations in Armenia which includes many local and international volunteers, hundreds of social media followers, and direct and indirect beneficiaries all over the country. Since its establishment, the organization has empowered thousands of young people in rural and urban areas and involved them in youth mobility, educational experiences, youth exchanges, and capacity building projects.
Now I understand that it is difficult to recognize the learning effects of non-formal education on the spot. It takes time. Later, I realized this thanks to my involvement in youth work, and so I grew both professionally and personally. Working on youth issues in my country strengthened my sense of responsibility for my community. I developed my public speaking and social skills. At the same time I challenged myself further and started to work as a facilitator/trainer which is a largest part of my daily work as a youth worker nowadays. Overall, thanks to youth work I gained self-confidence and learnt to turn my weaknesses into my strengths.
I am writing this story from College of Europe – a leading university in the field of European Studies. If someone would tell me in 2007 that I will be admitted here, I wouldn’t have taken them seriously. Sometimes a small chance can change the directions of our lives.
Sometimes a small chance can change the directions of our lives
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