NorArar: An Educational Initiative for Children of Artsakh3 min read
The NorArar Educational Initiative was launched in October 2020 in response to the psychosocial and educational needs of displaced children from Artsakh residing in Vanadzor, Armenia. The initiative, which was announced as one of the winning projects at the University College London (UCL) Build Your Own Business program, is led by Mher Davtyan (MATEFL ‘16) an alumnus of the American University of Armenia (AUA) currently earning his MA degree in Educational Leadership at UCL. The NorArar team also comprises co-founders Dianna Torosyan (MATEFL ‘16) and Arpine Baghdasaryan, who are studying at the UCL MA in Education and International Development program, and AUA student Dayana Amirkhanyan (BAEC ‘23).
As the recent Artsakh War broke out, the NorArar team joined efforts to implement psychosocial interventions for affected children. Through a social-emotional learning course and individual mentoring, NorArar has helped 10 displaced children from Artsakh and three local children identified as socially vulnerable by their schools children heal their traumas and develop supportive relationships with peers and mentors in a new community of responsive connections. The psychosocial interventions were put into effect through the financial support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Armenia Women in Politics program and the special support of the AUA Open Education, which opened its doors to NorArar children in Vanadzor Technology Centre to facilitate the project. As NorArar engaged in this work with students, a lot more volunteer support was discovered: Davit Yegiazaryan, a well-known artist from Vanadzor provided unforgettable art therapy experiences for children on regular basis. Four teachers have volunteered to provide individual tutoring to a 12-grade displaced student preparing him for university entrance examinations.
In March 2021, the NorArar Educational Enterprise announced a call for volunteer mentors for displaced children from Artsakh. The mentors are expected to develop a supportive and trusting relationship with the mentees by becoming trusted adults in their lives, contributing to their individual development, fostering educational pursuits, expanding their worldview, building confidence in themselves and helping them discover their true potential. The NorArar team will be matching mentors and mentees based on their compatibility in late April.
“As we conducted a needs assessment speaking with parents of the displaced children from Artsakh, we gained a better understanding of their situation and the need for a more comprehensive after-school educational program that would provide additional knowledge and skills to fill the gaps that have resulted from their loss of school. On average, each student we work with has been out of school for two to three months. Seventy-one percent of our teenagers reported having significant learning challenges that their school teachers did not detect. Some students are on the verge of dropping out of school because of low motivation or the need to work to support their families. That is why we started a call to action on GoFundMe to ensure our children have all the needed resources to be able to concentrate on learning even in these times when things are so chaotic in their lives,” mentions Davtyan.
The funds raised from the GoFundMe campaign will be used to support the crisis-affected children currently enrolled at NorArar as well as to expand the services to support up to 30 students, to ease their recovery and support their continued learning. The funding will enable the team to supply students with stationery, ensure group instruction in core subjects, provide basic food packages to families in need, and hire teachers who will work with students in a comprehensive afterschool program after being trained in trauma-informed care approaches and equipped with tools for use in turning their classrooms to safe havens for students to learn and develop.
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.