“Attending the smiley clubs does good not only to me, but also to my mum, because she comes home late from work and she doesn’t have to bother herself to help me with the lessons. I really like the volunteers who work with us. I like to learn languages because I know that I will need them a lot in life. The club gave me that opportunity, I just love to attend the English classes. Thanks to the club, I have become more sociable, I learn my lessons easily, I express my opinion without being upset or embarrassed,” says Yana, a fourth-grader from Goris, about the newly opened Smiley Club.
The Smiley Clubs operating in Goris (school number 6) and Jermuk (secondary School No. 2) are part of the Armenian Red Cross Society's (ARCS) response to the September escalation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border. They were established within the framework of the “Enhancing access to education for IB schools and displaced children from NK – 2021" program, being implemented since 2021 with the support of the ICRC, to help children overcome the stress and difficulties of the conflict, to give them the opportunity to be educated in a safe environment.
“The Smiley Club, and especially the lesson preparation component, is definitely important. The children have the opportunity to consolidate the knowledge they acquire, and they go home ready for the next school day, which also greatly helps the parents,” says Mrs. A. Arsenyan, headmistress of the Jermuk school.
By 2022, Smiley Clubs were already operating in 10 communities hosting border and displaced children. Here, the volunteers of the Armenian Red Cross Society help children prepare lessons, organize foreign language and arts clubs, and take children on tours and hikes.
Thanks to the efforts of the Armenian Red Cross Society, 170 children in grades 1-6 have the opportunity to attend Smiley Clubs in Jermuk and Goris.
“I am very happy that such a club operates in Goris, because children are not neglected, they are in the spotlight Even small treats of sweets make them very excited. They return home with the homework prepared and ready for the next school day. The club contributes to both the education and overall development of my children, which can be seen in their behavior, grades, and interest in classes. I am grateful to the Armenian Red Cross Society for such an initiative,” says Hasmik Galstyan, who was displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and took refuge in Goris.
These children have dreams and hope for a peaceful future. Their current realities and difficulties, the pain of being displaced from their home, village, and city, is slightly alleviated with the joy the Smiley Clubs give, and the hope that their world can be restored with the help of caring people.