On 20 January 2023, UNHCR’s new partner, Women’s Support Center (WSC) hospitably welcomed UNHCR to their office for the presentation of the UNHCR-supported “Let’s Walk” children’s sketchbook for a group of colleagues from WSC, World Vision Armenia, and Child Development Foundation.
The presentation was conducted by the co-author, Ms. Maïda Chavak, who developed the book together with her colleague, a psychologist, Ms. Anouch Chahbenderian (both living in France), for the children of Armenia undergoing difficult post-conflict times, resulting in emotional distress, anxiety, and psychological unease. In an interesting and engaging manner, Maïda told the story behind creation of this psycho-educational sketchbook and explained its concept and methodology to the group of experts: psychologists, social workers, gender experts, and art therapists working with vulnerable local and displaced children, their parents, and caregivers.
“During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict back in 2020, Anouch came to Armenia to visit families, and I went to places were displaced families were sheltered to draw with children and invent games with them. Afterwards, Anouch started to think about creating a psycho-playful book and asked me to work on developing visual materials for it,” said Ms. Maïda Chavak, describing the story of the creation of the book. “When in Armenia, Anouch met many families affected by conflict and displacement, living in deep sorrow and sadness. She was eager to help them overcome the emotional hardships, and especially among the children who seemed “to have parted” with their happy childhood and were like “invisible spectators” in the families, unable to change the things, and sometimes even express and share their emotions,” Ms. Anahit Hayrapetyan, the External Relations Associate of UNHCR in Armenia, added by quoting psychologist Anouch.
The sketchbook triggered genuine interest among the specialists, who asked questions and discussed it, brainstorming and sharing opinions. As expressed by the Director of the Child Development Foundation, Ms. Lusine Simonyan, the sketchbook was a useful and handy tool for the specialists. It would enable them to work with vulnerable children in an innovative manner, and through their artistic expression, help them get an in-depth picture of children’s emotional and psychological state.
The book offered a number of small tasks with interesting questions and lovely illustrations.
“I admire the book, its style, the illustrations and its simple and child-friendly language. It was developed in a very thoughtful way offering children a safe space to draw and create and muse over their thoughts and dreams they would resist to express before,” noted Ms. Sevan Petrosyan, a gender expert from World Vision Armenia, working with displaced women and children.
The participants were absorbed in a discussion about the content and potential users, the story behind and some practical aspects related to the use of the book both by children and adults.
“The scope of the sketchbook is very wide, in fact. It can be very useful for children but also for women, especially those who have experienced violence, trauma and hardship. The time spent with the book will soothe down their mind and open up their expression, creativity and imagination,” said Ms. Hasmik Gevorgyan, Project Manager, Women’s Support Center.
Ms. Maïda Chavak was happy to receive feedback from the participants and listen to their expert observations in the work with the vulnerable families and the displaced.
UNHCR External Relations Associate, Ms. Anahit Hayrapetyan, said on her turn: “Indeed, children’s lives are full of interesting occasions, many plans and endeavours. We should work together to cheer them up and inspire them for these endeavours. While scrolling through the “Let’s Walk” sketchbook, children can think over many exciting things, and in a creative manner, can tell their stories and share their thoughts. They can also use it as a diary of childhood memories and cherished desires, which we sincerely hope will come true.”
“UNHCR is thankful to Maïda Chavak and Anouch Chahbenderian for their dedication and support to the children of Armenia, as well as all the NGO partners who Stand Together #WithRefugees helping them overcome the hardship of displacement,” Anahit added at the end of the event.
Besides Women’s Support Center, World Vision Armenia and Child Development Foundation, UNHCR has presented the “Let’s Walk” sketchbook to a number of other agencies and experts, representatives of municipalities and the Unified Social Service working with displaced families, For Equality Human Rights NGO in Ijevan, Armavir Development Center and its “Sunrise” Children’s Support Center, Youth Cooperation Center of Dilijan and Family and Community NGO in Metsamor.
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