YOUTH EXCHANGE

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Exchange Switzerland - Armenia

Cultural exchange: YMCA/YWCA Zurich - Spitak YMCA

An important element of the partnership between the Spitak YMCA and the YMCA/YWCA Zurich are our mutual visits.

Members of the YMCA/YWCA Zurich’s partnership team visit our Armenian friends in Spitak every year. These meetings include sharing experiences with volunteer work, discussing important topics of the partnership and keeping up to date on the Home for Future and its programs.

Every two years, two or three members of the Spitak YMCA also get the chance to visit Switzerland. These young leaders are given the chance to improve their practical knowledge  and leadership skills by joining a scouting camp and other instructive events. Board members of the Spitak YMCA also regularly visit Zurich in order to take part in vocational training meetings.

Sometimes, Swiss volunteers also stay in Spitak for a longer time. Such a period enables more in-depth work on a specific topic (for example accounting).

All these different exchanges help strengthen and grow our partnership - on an interpersonal level as well as the institutional one.

Visits from Armenia

Facilitated by the Eurpoean Voluntary Service (EVS) and the Swiss "Movetia" Foundation, we have had the had the pleasure of working with several long-term volunteers from abroad. Learn more about our volunteers under the "International" section of our website.


 

Visit 2018

The annual summer camp of the YMCA scouting group Zürich 10 took place in Val Sumvitg, GR. Part of the leadership team were Nurica Boyajyan and Seryoja Ajamyan, two volunteers from the Spitak YMCA.

Visit to Switzerland & Unify conference 2016

The Unify conference, which took place on February 25-28 2016, was a great experience for me. It has changed my life and my way of thinking a lot. It was very responsible for me to introduce Armenia and Spitak YMCA, and I was very proud to be a part of it.  It was very well organized and informative. Everything was perfect: listening to the speakers, singing powerful songs, working in focus groups, sightseeing etc.

For me it was pleasure to see so many Christians in one place, to listen to them, to exchange knowledge with them and to get knowledge from them.  They belonged to different churches but they were all Christians. We must all understand that accepting one another without diluting our faith will not weaken the well-tempered character of the church, nor will it alter the central message of the lordship of Christ. In fact, it will be strengthen us, because in unity there is power, completeness and the beauty of our common Lord.

After the Unify, we stayed in Switzerland one more week. We spent time at the YMCA/YWCA Zurich, had an Armenian evening, went to sightseeing, visited our friends…

Those days were full of so many positive impressions, that no word can describe them.

Thank you for all of them who made our days unforgettable.

By Ani Ayvazyan, Office Assistant & English Club leader Spitak YMCA

I am a part of UNIFY

I close my eyes and still see faces of 159 UNIFY participants, my ears still hear the worship songs and I still feel the power of great atmosphere in my heart. It was such a blessing to see how God brought his people together to love one another. I was really blessed to get to meet so many people from different continents and ages, who had God’s spirit living in them.

UNIFY was about inspire, worship and share. We worship sharing our love to God to inspire each other and it felt so good. I am pretty sure that during and after UNIFY everyone felt blessed and back home with God’s light in their heart as I did. It gave me a great vision of what I can do back at home.

I feel so great to be a part of something beautiful that happened in Hasliberg and I thank our partners from Zurich YMCA for the given opportunity.

Praise to be God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!

Psalm 66.20

Lusine Poghosian, Board Member Spitak YMCA


 

Report 2015: Guests from Spitak in the summer camp of Cevi Zurich 10

We are volunteers of YMCA Spitak. Norayr is a scout leader and I’m a Ten Sing leader. This year, we were chosen to represent Spitak YMCA in Switzerland and had the great chance to take part in an exchange visit with Cevi Zurich. We spent unforgettable 23 days there.

Before the scout camp, which lasted two weeks, we had some days of sightseeing. This gave us the great opportunity to get to know the leaders better and due to this, we felt more comfortable in the camp as we already knew most of the leaders.  

The camp itself was really interesting, unforgettable and funny. During these two weeks we made friends with the leaders and had a great time. We knew that we were going to stay in tents and were a bit worried about it as we thought it would be too hard to stay in tents for two weeks. But later, we did not want to leave the camp. Also because of our friends who were so nice and kind with us that we felt comfortable.

We gained experience which we are going to share with Spitak YMCA leaders. We had an Armenian morning in the camp: The Swiss leaders learned an Armenian dance and an Armenian song, played a typical Armenian game and tasted   Armenian food. During the camp, there were a lot of situations that will stay in our memories. For example the process of receiving our YMCA names. Getting a YMCA name is not so easy. You have to pass tests which show how brave you are. The funniest moment were the questions about Armenia and Switzerland. Fortunately, we passed all those tests and had the honour to get our YMCA names.  

After the camp, we had some days left and did a lot of sightseeing again. We liked Switzerland very much. In the beginning, the Swiss punctuality was a bit unusual for us, but later we got used to it. 

We had an Armenian evening in the Gloggi – including an Armenian table with Armenian dishes. We met a lot of people there whom we already knew and that made us feel more comfortable. We also met some Armenians and we felt very proud. 

We are very thankful to everybody. Thanks to YMCA Spitak for giving us such a great opportunity. Thanks to those who spent these days with us and took care of us. To the leaders of Cevi Zurich for being so friendly and nice. Special thanks to the families who hosted us. Due to them, we really felt at home!

By Marina Babayan and Norayr Badalyan


 

Visit 2015: Impressions

Report exchange visit to Cevi Zurich 2014 

We are volunteers from YMCA Spitak. During our experience here, we have met a lot of friends from abroad and from Switzerland too. And this year we have had a great chance to visit them in their own country. We had unforgettable 19 days there.
During our time there we have had a lot of sightseeing and not only. We were in Zurich and Basel, which are really beautiful places.

Because we are TenSing (Teenagers Singing) leaders, it was very interesting for us to see how it is in Switzerland, so one day we went to participate in TenSing there. It was very funny that they played exactly the same  games as we do in Armenia. We also participated in a scout program and we really want to mention that it is a great idea to make  fairytales every scout program. It was interesting for us to see how TenSing and Scouts are in Switzerland: very different from ours, but at the same time very similar to ours. 
And at last the biggest part of our program was scout camp! The camp was really interesting and funny. And with that we got very valuable experience which we can use in our programs here. Of course during the time in the camp we became friends with Swiss participants.     

Because it was first time for us alone in abroad of course we have had some difficulties concerning living far away from our relatives and friends.   
 It was very nice that we have met Armenians who were living in Switzerland. Really, we have found a lot of common things.                                                                                    

We liked Switzerland very much.  It is a really beautiful country. And we like Swiss punctuality, but it was  a bit unusual for us. One of the most interesting and tasty days was when we were in a chocolate factory.                                        

And we are very thankful everyone who was with us and took care of us.
Although a lot of difference we realized that common thing for every YMCA (as we think) is that it’s place for uniting young people and giving them opportunity to create and be creative. 

by Shaqe Karapetyan and Susanna Kotoshyan


 

125-year anniversary of the YMCA/YWCA Zurich 2012

Our Armenian guests from the Spitak YMCA at the 125-year anniversary – a few highlights

From November 17 to 24, 2012, the YMCA/YWCA Zurich celebrated its 125th birthday. To celebrate the anniversary, the YMCA/YWCA Zurich invited Alvardt Mrktchyan, Haykuhi Karapetyan und Grisha Bostanchyan. Hayk Khachatryan alos took part at this event. On Tuesday at the YMCA Café, our guests invited us along on a trip to their country. They served Armenian coffee, delicious Armenian specialties and dried fruits from the garden of the Spitak YMCA. In the evening Alvardt, Haykuhi and Grisha held a presentation about the Spitak YMCA. They spoke about the offers and about the financial and personal situation of the Spitak YMCA. Afterwards, they offered us some tasty sweets and drinks from Armenia. There were interesting discussions between Armenians and Swiss people. As a farewell celebration from the Armenians, we first enjoyed an apéro at the Lindenhof in Zurich and afterwards we spent the evening at the restaurant Crazy Cow. There we ate some Rösti, Züri Geschnetzeltes and other typical Swiss foods. During the week they supported us in the organization and the execution of the event. Additionally, Grisha Bostanchyan took part at the first national Leadership conference of the Swiss YMCA in Vaumarcus, NE. He conducted two workshops about the topic of local-to-local partnerships with YMCA groups in Eastern Europe.

The whole week was a success. Our Armenian friends supported us in every situation and we got to know each other much better, strengthening our partnership.


 

YWCA 27th World Council - extracts of Haykuhi Karapetyan’s travel report

“I arrived in Zürich to participate in the IWS in the frames of the YWCA 27th World Council on July 12-13, 2011 which had the following title: Women Creating a Safe World. (…) There were around 1000 participants for this event from all the continents, representing all the nationalities and races. They were so different and so beautiful in national costumes with all sorts of incredible head covers but at the same time they were close to each other in their concerns and determined to help all those in need.”
“I really did not have any idea about YWCA except for several general words I picked up in the Internet. Now I understand that it is the inseparable part of the World YMCA movement but at the same time it is so different. YMCA is mostly concerned about uniting young people, running programs targeted at giving them knowledge and developing their skills, organizing different events and leisure time activities for them, whereas YWCA works to achieve human and women’s rights protection, women’s education and health care questions, it struggles against violence, child mortality, early marriages, HIV infection, etc. I learnt about certain things that seem to be so archaic or non-relevant to the 21st century but the reality is that there are still countries with such traditions that are really non- acceptable from the modern woman’s point of view. Women today must be equal to men and protected, free and independent.”
“During these two days there were several encouraging reports and inspiring speeches made by very influential and famous women having offices in very important institutions such as Susan Brennan (President World YWCA), Michelle Bachelet (UN Women), Ruth Dreifuss (Council of Women World Leaders, Switzerland first female president), Mary Robinson (the first female president of Ireland) and so on.
All these speeches as well as activities and successful programs of different YWCA national movements in cooperation with the World YWCA Council encouraged me to think of starting a YWCA local organization targeted at working with women in my community. Later on a YMCA/YWCA Armenia as a joint movement would be established together with the other 3 YWCAs in different towns in Armenia working separately at the moment which could give more opportunities to involve more people, to have new ideas and programs and to enlarge the number of fields for our activities.”
“Before and after the summit, I spent really a lovely time and unforgettable days with all of my friends. (…) On the first day of my arrival I was in Glockenhof to participate in the Partner Team meeting where I met all my friends all together. (…) Another important day in CEVI during my visit was the so-called Armenian evening. (…) I am really thankful to my host families- Balyans and Kuensches and also all my friends - Julia, Thomas, Christian, Anja, Christoph who really made me feel home and even forget that I am in a foreign country and surrounded mostly by not Armenians.”
“I am sure this was not the last YWCA event with an Armenian participant and there soon will be Armenian YWCA with more delegates as a registered movement.” 


 

Summer 2011: Armenians at the Summercamp of Cevi Zurich 10

Thanks to the partnership with the YMCA/YWCA Zurich, Tehmine Gyulazyan and Gor Soghomonyan had the chance to participate in a scout camp. They learnt a lot of new things about Switzerland, had the opportunity to share their scouting experience with the Swiss and they made a lot of new friends. From what they say, the most interesting part was culture sharing with the young people, like what kind of music they listen to, what kind of problems they have and what they like doing in their free time. 

After the camp, Tehmine and Gor had a whole week left to see Switzerland and its sights. As the partnership team organized a varied program for them, they had the opportunity to see a Swiss wedding, they saw the Rhine Falls, the Bärengraben in Bern, the Üetliberg in Zürich and much, much more. They surely didn't get bored at all. 

On their last evening in Switzerland, everyone was intived to a public barbecue where the past three weeks were discussed once again and some email addresses were exchanged.

Our two guests left Switzerland with both wistful and enthusiastic feelings. They would be pleased to welcome any of their new friends in Armenia to show them their culture.

 

They impressions from their visit:

Gor Soghomonyan

“This was my first trip on behalf of YMCA Spitak abroad. The aim was to be in a scout camp and to get to know new scout technics. I liked Switzerland from the very first second and there were many reasons for this. I liked how clean the whole country was, I admired the beautiful towns and the buildings, the wonderful nature, lakes and parks. (...)

The camp topic was a famous story and the whole program was built up based on this story. The heroes of the story were with us all the time. We had an Armenian day during the camp when we taught our Swiss friends an Armenian dance, a song and even the Armenian letters so as they can write their names and family names. (...) We learnt a lot of things during the camp. For example, I learnt a new way to make knots, types of tents, interesting games, we made new friends. I think both of us will use all we learnt to make our camps more interesting, adventurous and unforgetful. We will restart scouting program in Spitak with a lot of new and fresh ideas.

I would like to thank all the people who took care of us also out of the camp and organized our time. I would like to thank Thomas whose place we stayed at on the first day, Julia and Eugenie who showed us Zurich. We had a great time with Alis and her family. Thanks to Alis we saw the capital of Switzerland, she took us to Rheinfall and so on. Special thanks to Christoph and Selina who were with us all 21 days of our stay and we became really good friends. I would like also to thank all those people in the YMCA who gave me the chance to go to Switzerland which I had never even dreamt about.”

Tehmine Gyulazyan

“At first, the most impressing thing of my stay in Switzerland was the beautiful nature. Switzerland and Armenia are both quite similar and so different at the same time. Both countries are very beautiful with all mountains around and wonderful sights. (...) I liked the style and architecture of Swiss houses and apartments. (...)

I spent most of my stay time in the camp. During the camp I met a lot of people, also my peers. It was very interesting to learn how they live, what problems they have, what kind of music they listen to, what they do during their free time. We shared a lot. (....) To some extent scouting in Switzerland differs from scouting in Armenia. During the construction of the camp area I learnt a lot of things. It was interesting for me how our Swiss friends planned and organized the campsite. For example, the big tent – the tent for meetings and for meals. (...)

Another thing I would like to mention is that I made a lot of new friends who I love very much and I hope that our friendship will last forever. I would like them to come to Armenia to see where I live, where I study, to get to know more people from Spitak YMCA, to see what programs we are running in our building and I would like them to see especially how our scouting program works.  

And last but not least, I would like to thank a lot for this chance to be in Switzerland and for your hospitability. Thanks to them who found time for me and Gor to show us Switzerland and took care of us. Everything was so great that I would like to have another chance to return to Switzerland one day.”

Visit 2011: Impressions

Conveniat 2009

From July 16 to 30, two young leaders from the Spitak YMCA, Tatul Bostanchyan and Lusine Avetisyan, were invited to Switzerland by the YMCA/YWCA of Altstetten and Albisrieden. They participated in Conveniat 2009, the national scouts camp with over 3000 participants. During their stay in Switzerland they had a chance to meet good old friends, visit the YMCA/YWCA Zurich and do some sightseeing. Some impressions of their stay:

 “I am very happy I was there. It was an interesting camp full of different activities which made leaders active and happy. I was surprised how big the camp was with so many participants. I have returned from the camp motivated and with some new ideas. Meeting people and sharing with them made certain changes in my worldview. I hope I’ll be able to use the experience I got there in the correct and proper way for Spitak YMCA programs.”   Lusine Avetisyan

“We had a chance to organize an Armenian workshop in the camp where our friends and peers from Switzerland could get acquainted with Armenian history, culture, tasted Armenian sweets and so on.

During the camp many interesting games and also night discos were organized. After the camp we returned to Zurich where we were received warmly. I liked Switzerland very much. It seemed to be a fairy tale for me. It reminded me perfection in all the senses. I didn’t stop getting surprised or admiring its beauty from the first day till the last one.

I would like to say that my visit to Switzerland was with the help of Walti family for which I am very grateful to them. During my stay there I lived in families where I did not feel myself alone, moreover I felt home and for this I would like to express my gratitude to Adrian and Andrea Kuensch, Peter and Marlyse Walti,  Julia Moeckli, Christoph Müller and all the others who supported me during my visit to Switzerland.

I think this trip was not a waste of time and I will be able to use the knowledge and skills obtained there and share it with my friends from Spitak YMCA. “   Tatul Bostanchyan

Autumn 2001: First visit from Armenia

Lusine Poghosian, board member of the Spitak YMCA, visited Switzerland by invitation of the YMCA/YWCA Zurich and took part in TenSing Seminary 1, the national training week for TenSing leaders. She also visited the scouts camp of the YMCA/YWCA of Altstetten and Albisrieden.


 

Visits in Armenia

August - October 2016

For three months, Tabea Ulrich was a volunteer in Spitak. She supported the Spitak YMCA in various programs and projects, such as in a scouting group and the "Kick for Spitak" sponsorship soccer tournament.

See some impressions from her trip here.

Silja Müller
October 2014 - January 2015

From October 2014 until January 2015, Silja Müller stayed in Spitak as a volunteer. She is an active part of our Armenian partnership team and a youth leader in the YMCA-YWCA of Zurich 10. Silja supported the team at Spitak YMCA in the scouts and childcare progams and with the launch of a girl scout group, including training programs for girl scouts leaders.


 

Anne Hasselmann and Nicolas Blandin
February and March 2014


Anne and Nico spent two months in Spitak and worked on the first historical and cultural guide book of Spitak.

A shared passion for Russian songs and travels in the former Soviet Republics sparked a project idea that materialized like a dream thanks to the support of Katrin Pilling and the YMCA Zurich.

During two months we – the historian Anne Hasselmann and the emerging photographer Nicolas Blandin – were sent to Spitak as volunteers by the YMCA Zurich in order to create a historical and cultural guide.

We decided not to focus only on the earthquake of 1988, but to present the town from a new point of view. So we asked the «Hamamlezis» about the history of their favorite places in town.

Step by step, we uncovered the layers of the city and put together an interesting and diverse collection of material. With great support from the YMCA Spitak team and the inhabitants, we searched for the origins of the new Spitak under inhospitable temperatures, which we managed to face thanks to the many coffees offered along the way.

We asked many questions: Which kindergartens, factories, churches, shops and restaurants did exist before the earthquake? Have they been rebuilt? Why not? How does the new town differ from the old one?

The information gained through interviews and research will be enhanced by carefully selected photographs. The 17 points of interest that we reached in an old Lada with ace driver Tatul Bostanchyan can now be located on the very first Spitak map expertly crafted by Grisha Bostanchyan. After this very exciting and personally enriching experience, we hope to provide Spitak and its guests with a guide that gives new insights into a region and a town that is much more than the epicenter of the 1988 earthquake.

Back in Switzerland, with itchy feet, we have now reached the final phase of the project: Nico is currently processing and editing the analogue photos, while I am editing the last missing texts for the booklet.

After a first German version, which is planned to be published in July 2014, we hope to be able to release an English and French version in autumn/winter 2014. To be continued!

Text: Anne Hasselmann
Translation: Thomals Rodemeyer and Nicolas Blandin