The fourth phase of Roots got off to a flying start in early 2020 with a new project component, the Local Capacities for Peace Award receiving high engagement from all over Europe, with nominations received from the YMCAs of Artsakh, Georgia, Ukraine and Ireland. The Roots Peace Work Institute Alumni were granted the exclusive right to vote and decide upon the winner of the Award, and the majority of them cast their votes for the YMCA Georgia project – “Roof for Roots”. Learn more here.
Georgia is a very multinational country with various ethnic and religious groups coexisting peacefully for centuries. The process of integration, however, remains to be an issue for certain minorities – especially living in remote and isolated communities.
Lack of access to quality education, inability to speak state language and subsequent obstacles in search for employment opportunities result in disillusion, alienation and eventual out-migration – especially among the youth. So, this was the topic that “Roots for Peace” aimed to tackle… Quite some task and the challenge for the team comprising mostly young people in their 20-ies, but they asked for it!
But as it soon turned out, the challenges were not to end there – soon after the announcement of Peace Award 2020 results, the rapid spread of COVID-19 pandemic took the global community by surprise and thoroughly altered the course of life in all corners of the world, causing lockdowns and serious restrictions of mobility.
Georgia was no exception… So, planning towards bringing together dozens of young people together for multiple days in a shared space was absolutely out of question by then!
And when the tensions on Armenian-Azerbaijan border escalated severely in early summer, the chances of having “Roof for Roots” got further fainter – as Armenian & Azerbaijani youth residing in Georgia were exactly the target groups that would spend 10 days together with their Georgian peers at YMCA Georgia “Camp Orange” – in the environment fostering peace, tolerance and understanding… But it did not seem feasible by then!
So, the odds were definitely not in favour – nevertheless, the “Roof for Roots” team persisted, hoping for the change… And it did occur! With the majority of COVID-19 restrictions gradually lifted and the situation in the region returning to normal, all that had to be done was to roll up the sleeves and make “Roof for Roots” happen…
And they sure did! Around 60 participants representing Georgian, Armenian & Azerbaijani communities – mostly aged 15 – 20; 2 sessions; 10 days; workshops dedicated to reconciliation, civic engagement; human and minority rights; exposure visits to local historic and nature sites, representation of own cultural traditions…. All program elements completed and goals met.
Yet, the true success has to be looked for elsewhere… Those joint songs by the campfire; improvised language classes; hugs and smiles; “secret friend” letters sent to each other; tears when time to say good-bye; … No boundaries, just sincere feelings and emotions…
But, it was just a good-bye and no farewell, because they will meet again! Given the success and impact of “Roof for Roots” and the relevance of the topic, YMCA Georgia plans to adopt the work with minorities as a strategic field of engagement and to organize similar activities with its own resources each year. Roots inspires…
And the team… Lika, Mariam, Irina, Elene, Kristi, Nick and Luka – these young girls and boys worked tirelessly to make it all happen! Most of them are Roots Peace Work Institute Alumni and we are very proud to see them grow together with us and deliver… the future of YMCA Georgia is in safe hands with them!
“Have confidence in the young people, give them a chance, and they will surprise you” – Kofi Atta Annan
Full photo album of the event