It takes only five hours to cross Armenia from top to bottom. It took us two hours to travel from Ijevan, close to the northern border with Azerbaijan, to Martuni, a village of around five thousands people by lake Sevan.
The “bus for hope” contained 13 of the 36 participants from the European “Youth in action” project named “Buzzinga! I am a volunteer!” which brought together youths from Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Armenia and Italy.
Almost half of the participants chose to self-organize a daily expedition to the school of Levon, an Armenian participant in the project and a teacher at Martuni’s school.
Levon’s grandfather, as well as both his parents, are teachers, and Levon has followed their tradition. But, unlike other teachers in his family, he had the chance to travel abroad and be inspired by the values of informal education. His dream is to make his school a place to be proud of, by starting a crowdfunding campaign to support the renovation of the decadent building.
Lichk’s school was built in the 1930s, when Armenia was still part of the Soviet union. Since then, the school has never been renovated and is today literally falling apart, becoming a dangerous place for education. You can have an idea of its present condition through the Facebook page of the school, accessible at this link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D4%BC%D5%AB%D5%B3%D6%84%D5%AB-%D5%B0%D5%AB%D5%B4%D5%B6%D5%A1%D5%AF%D5%A1%D5%B6-%D5%A4%D5%BA%D6%80%D5%B8%D6%81/400076006736782?ref=hl
When we arrived to the school the students welcomed us with a traditional ballet and delightful popular songs. Today, April 24th, is a special day for the Armenians, as it is the memorial day of the genocide perpetrated 99 years ago by the Ottoman empire and the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians. On this day armenians from every city of the country go to the national memorial site, Tsitsernakabert, to leave flowers around the perennial fire of remembrance. Our team instead walked with the students across the village to bring flowers to the local statue erected in memory of armenian genocide.
I was surrounded by kids of different ages with little knowledge of english who asked me every kind of question in both armenian and russian. Despite the linguistic barrier we were able to connect, talking about the little things, running, singing, dancing and jumping around the street.
The history of this village partially explains the present disastrous condition of the school. Most of the students’ parents left the village to work in Russia. There is even a part of the village where new houses are being built that is called “Putinka”. As a result, the village has acquired some wealth with russian money, but the school is still in extremely bad condition due to lack of attention from the local government.
The armenian government is not only in denial of the necessary investment for the renovation of the school, but also isn’t recognizing the important role of education for the local and national development. Moreover, education is not considered important by the villagers, who have acquired wealth emigrating abroad, and leave no opportunity for their sons and daughters to do the same.
The consequences of this social and political neglect lead to the current situation, in which children risk their life simply by entering a school unsafe for studying, where parts of the ceiling may sometimes fall on student’s heads.
Our visit was originally meant to give hope to Lichk’s student that the situation of their school will change, and soon. By playing different games such as energizers and ice-breakers, and singing national songs, we wanted to convey to the students the hope that after this morning encounter, the story of their school will travel around the world. Not only had we succeeded in transmitting hope to Martuni’s students, but much more was transmitted to us.
One of the most touching moment of the morning has been the creation of several artistic posters to cover the holes in the walls of the school. The “papers for hope” have also been colorful souvenirs by which to remember this encounter.
Martuni’s students and the international team practiced intercultural dialogue working side by side on these posters, making their hands dirty drawing the shape of mountains, lakes, flowers and other national symbols.
On one of the posters, it is written “help with your hands”. Here, the outlines of many hands of the participants mix together, blurring lines of distinction between Armenians and the rest. Truly, the condition of Martuni’s school is the same as other schools in Ukraine and Italy. The act of international caring goes beyond the constraints of a charity mentality, because our help could benefit us much more than we can even imagine. We hope that one day students from Armenia’s school will be in the condition to visit our schools for a student youth exchange. In the same way, we hope that our students will be able to visit Martuni’s village and be astonished by the hospitality of its people.
As we have already received more than we gave, now is time to make Martuni’s school well know around the world! Everyone can contribute to the renovation of the building by making a donation, adding brick by brick to Lichk’s school renovation. Soon we will post on Samsara Route the link to the crowfunding project to give to Martuni’s school a newer and safer building. Follow the development of this project on https://www.facebook.com/SosArmenia?fref=ts and please spread the word!