Impressions from a summer camp in the Caucasus
Ureki – this word will remind 60 children and young people from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the three North Caucasian republics of the Russian Federation ( Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Chechnya) of the wonderful time spent in the one-week summer camp in the small Georgian seaside resort at the Black Sea in early July of 2013. Many of them saw the sea for the first time in their life. Many of them met their peers from the neighbouring countries for the first time. In the Caucasus region, where the last armed conflict ended only five years ago and several frozen conflicts hamper normal inter-state relations up today, this experience is an exception.
The regional summer camp “Children of the Caucasus” is the first joint project of the Caucasus Network for Children (CNC) which is a platform of 15 civil society organizations, working together to advance and safeguard the rights of children from vulnerable groups and their inclusion into education and the life of the community.
“What will it be like to meet Armenians?” worried the young Azeris during the long train journey from Baku to Ureki -says the representative of one of the Azeri member organizations of the network. So far they have never had the chance to meet Armenians in real life and their only resource of information was the official propaganda.
On the second evening in the camp the groups presented their national dances, songs and films which caused anxiety among those children who saw the national symbols of a neighbouring country which is perceived as “enemy” in their home country.
The situation has gradually changed: “Once the personal contact is established, propaganda simply does not work anymore,” says an Azeri participant with satisfaction. “That’s why some people don’t want young people from the region to travel and meet each other.”
The children could participate in a variety of workshops and trainings in the fields of communication and conflict resolution, leadership, media and arts through which they could experience inclusion tangible and understandable, strengthen various abilities, The participants were introduced to different methods of inclusive education and work Forty participating trainers and educators could share their experiences and methods in education at various workshops.
The children were particularly fond of dancing. Next to the beach in the spacious garden of the camp site, the dance floor was extensively used almost every evening. Under the fiery sounds and rhythms of their native songs, the young people whirled around, taking turns in moving in and out, the inner circle applauded and cheered each other and naturally including those who were less flexible due to some disability. The national dances, which on the second night had been perceived as something divisive, now became unifying moments which made inclusion for sixty young people from the Caucasus as a real and unforgettable experience.
Project Management, Interkulturelles Zentrum
Caucasus Network for Children:
www.caucasuschildren.net (page under construction)