Together we are YMCA

It comes to an end again, as a few of us sit in the Lobby unable to sleep before the early morning flight, I am given time to think over the last few days. 

It has been a lot of travel, exposed to a lot of beautiful nature, incredible history, moving stories and the opportunity to meet fabulous people…

10575507_683055118440171_922653135_oIt has been a tiring week,  I have been poured full of information about the situation here in Karabakh. I have learnt about some of the work the YMCA does here and the difficulties they face to carry it out. They have passionate young leaders in YMCA Artsakh like Ashot (picture above) who after completing some training with YMCA has, over the last 3 years organised the cleaning and restoration of some of Karabakh’s most sacred sites, all done by young people! Other projects include using art work to express themselves, their hopes and dreams which is delivered in partnership with young people from Azerbijan.

We had the complete honor to meet a small number of refugees here. They are not recognised as refugees so are not entitled to the same international support as those fleeing their homes as others. They have left behind homes in Azerbijan, they have left behind loved ones, and fled to Karabakh for their safety because they identify and have heritage as Armenian. One woman told us her story. She left her home, her husbands grave and the only thing she brought with her was her son, who was taken in the war. She left for his safety and is now faced with the remainder of her life without him and the memory of what this conflict has taken from her. This is not only a moving story as this, to be a refugee anywhere is not an easy thing but to not be recognised as a refugee anywhere in the world because of where she has had to flee too… to be told that you are not a refugee because “we” do not recognise Karabakh so you are still in Azerbijan, you are internally displaced at worst. This, for me, made the story more difficult to hear.
When Vardan asked what would stay with me from this trip, I told him the conversations with the people round the table. This is true. They always stay with me. But the personal stories of war will also stay with me. These beautiful women who in spite of everything, still take the time and emotional pain to tell their story. 
I still have so much to think about; what will happen now? What will be the next steps for us a group? How can I share what I have learnt with my local YMCA and the people I work with back in Romford? 
Still much to think about but I know I am reminded yet again, We are #YMCA.The NK Tandem Group now hands the baton to the Balkan Tandem Group! Good Luck to you all in the Balkans (and Ireland)! #peace


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