Between July 25 and August 3, 2019, Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organization (Aleppo-NGO) hosted a “Robotics Summer Camp for Disadvantaged Refugee Youth in Armenia at the YMCA Vardenis Camp in Daranak. The camp was organized within the framework of “Assisting Vulnerable Syrian Youth and their Guardians” project, funded by the Julia Taft Refugee Fund of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
Twenty-five refugee children and youth, between the ages of 8 and 17, from Afghanistan, Iraq, Republic of Artsakh, Syria and Turkey participated in the Robotics camp, which allowed them the opportunity to obtain basic knowledge of programming, 3D modeling and robotics manufacturing. The participants were introduced to the “Fox” and “Turtle” Armenian software programs used to create animation for games and videos, learned how to construct robots, got acquainted with “Arduino and IDE” equipment needed for programming environment, as well as created 3D models.
On August 2, 2019, the closing ceremony of the camp was held at the camp with the participation of representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Armenia and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Armenia.
Mr. Sarkis Balkhian, the Executive Director of Aleppo-NGO, expressed his gratitude to the U.S. State Department and the US Embassy in Armenia for sponsoring the project, especially highlighting the contributions of Ms. Somer Bier-Bessier, former Human Rights officer at the US Embassy in Armenia, and Ms. Lilit Antonyan, Political Assistant/Assistance Coordinator in the realization of the Summer Camp, as well as the protection of Syrian refugees in Armenia over the past several years.
“When we think about refugees, we often envision a group of people with urgent humanitarian needs. We do not focus on the huge potential for not only self-growth but for the development of the society of the host country,” said Sarkis Balkhian, Executive Director of Aleppo-NGO. “This summer camp was unique because it did not focus on social or economic integration topics often covered by summer camps for Syrians in Armenia, but on the development of the Information Technology skills of refugee youth from around the world, including from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. These youth were exposed to the most important and common language in the world, which is the binary code of Zeros and Ones (0,1,0,1).”
Mr. Balkhian also welcomed the newly appointed Human Rights and Political Officer at the US Embassy in Armenia, Ms. Cristina Hansell, and expressed interest in continuing Aleppo-NGO’s collaboration with the US Embassy in finding innovative and sustainable solutions for refugees in Armenia.
“The U.S. State Department permanently stands behind refugees and it will continue its ongoing support to Syrian refugee youth sheltered in Armenia. I am glad to see that due to this project, the children obtained knowledge about robotics and I believe that for most of them the project will become fundamental for further professional activities in the field of information technologies,” stated Ms. Cristina Hansell, in her remarks.
Mr. Balkhian also expressed gratitude towards the contributions of UNHCR in Armenia in the efforts to protect Syrian Refugees in Armenia since 2012, especially the contributions of Ms. Anahit Hayrapetyan, the External Relations Associate, who was amongst the attendees.
Ms. Hayrapetyan highlighted the efforts of Aleppo-NGO in the protection of displaced youth and the importance of implementing such projects that often serve as the basis for change the destinies of refugee children.
During the closing ceremony, some of the participants shared their experiences, presented the software programs they learned within the 10-day camp, and displayed the robots and animations they had created during the camp. The campers expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to participate in such a camp and expressed desire to further get involved in similar, innovative programs that focus on Information Technology.
At the end of the event, the participants were awarded certificates by the representative of the US Embassy in Armenia.