“I didn’t like to wash my hands here… I was scared but Narine has helped me overcome my fear,” says a 4-year-old girl from Dsegh community in Lori.
The little girl is just one of the many children aged 3 to 6 that have been attending COAF SMART Center Child Development Corner. And Narine Movsisyan is the coordinator of the Corner. Here, kids learn to express themselves, relax and develop various useful skills. The sessions at SMART Center help them go through the transition to kindergarten and school painlessly and overcome the fear of being apart from their parents.
“Children play, sing and dance a lot. We draw and use art therapy techniques,” Narine says. “The important thing is that children share their newly gained knowledge and skills with their families, and we often get feedback from parents whose kids have learnt, for example, to say Thank You. They go home and surprise their mothers by saying “Thank you, mommy” for the first time.”
Narine Movsisyan has been with COAF since October 2016. She mentions that she has a ten years’ experience as a psychologist and shares her thoughts about the working in rural areas. “I used to think that children in rural communities would be shy but as soon I started working with COAF I realized that they were quite open and willing to communicate. They are not any different from urban kids – they just have fewer opportunities. There are not many chances for them to be involved in after-school activities. For example, lots of girls want to learn modern dances but their schools offer only folk dances to them. Rural kids opened a whole new world for me. I didn’t even expect we had so many resources in villages. When people in beneficiary communities saw that I was there to help them, they began trusting me more. Sometimes young mothers saw me in a local store and smiled at me. “We know that you are our psychologist,” they said.
But it has not been always like that. “Sometimes, people hardly even realize what psychologists do. However, I talked to community members and, finally, managed to build a bridge between us.”
Then Narine tells the story of a kid who uses a wheelchair in one of the villages, “I started using elements of dance therapy or, rather, movement techniques while working with her. It was hard but soon she started dancing with her hands… She did it so gracefully…”
In Arevatsag community, Narine staged a dance performance that was called We can Put an End to Violence Together. Local kids learned to talk about violence through dance movements, which had a great therapeutic effect.
Narine says her previous jobs have never been so exciting as the current one, “COAF just embraced me, allowing me to work in a new way and to implement my projects using new methods. COAF greatly contributes to the professional and personal growth of its employees… Starting from my first day, I have been exposed to new materials and new experiences. There are no limitations in COAF. I am free in my work. Surely, we have a thoroughly worked-out plan, but it can change based on the needs of our beneficiaries. For example, we have set up an agenda for working with pregnant women. It’s a group work but we have individual consultations if needed.”
Narine thinks that the presence of COAF is extremely important in rural areas. “When you enter a COAF-supported community, you will see that children have a lot more things to do than in many urban areas… I enjoy working with COAF. I love working in rural areas, in this new and wonderful environment, and I like being close to the nature. Getting to know people in rural communities has always been important to me. COAF inspires me every day, and I feel that I keep growing professionally and personally.”
Kids also enjoy the fascinating environment of the SMART Center. “Here I learned that I should not eat chips and other unhealthy food,” a little boy says.
Parents are also happy with the Child Development Corner sessions. “My 6-year-old boy counts the days till his next visit,” a mother from Dzoragyugh community says. “Once we were planning to visit a relative in another village. Our son protested, screaming, “I cannot come with you… It’s a “SMART Center Day” tomorrow!”
Over a one-year period about 140 children from 6 communities in Lori have been attending the Child Development Corner and enjoying the “SMART Center Days…”