Caucasus Connect: Project Week 2017

La­­­st week, UWC Dilijan students travelled to Buckswood school in Tbilisi, Georgia for the first part of a long-term initiative called the “Caucasus Connect”. Established this year, the Caucasus Connect aims to bring together diverse youth in the region in the UWC spirit of cooperation across cultures. As representatives of the only UWC in the Caucasus, the student organisers of Caucasus Connect wanted to bring the mission into action by using the location of the school to support initiatives that promote regional teamwork and dialogue between youth.

Through a non-political medium of creative arts, or sports, for example, teenagers from various backgrounds have the chance to develop friendships regardless of where they come from, much like students do at UWC Dilijan. While the first stage of the project carried out over project week only involved participants from within Georgia, the project will ideally develop in the next few years to include youth from other countries that neighbor Armenia.

In preparation for the project, the Caucasus Connect team reached out to several local NGOs, such as Imagine Center, Peace Dialogue, and GOALS, and met with their representatives to consult about how to go forward with the project. The planning stage also included contacting many organisations in Georgia which provided a means to get in touch with potential participants. Locating funds for the program was also initially a challenge, because the Caucasus Connect group wanted to make the camp free of charge for all participants, but owing to the kindness and generosity of many donors around the world, they were able to raise over 1000 dollars in additional funding for the project, without which the camp would not have happened.

Finally, after a long preparation, the initiative went forward, and took place in Tbilisi, Georgia. It brought together local students between the ages of 14 and 17 from around Georgia, including those studying at Buckswood school, which generously hosted the creative arts camp. Students split into three groups of theatre, art, and music, and each group was composed of both UWC students, representing 10 different countries, and Georgian students.

The groups worked independently on musical and theatrical performances and a large piece of artwork. While almost none of the outside participants had any serious background in the creative arts, their hard work and willingness to learn and try new things allowed the 4-day long camp to successfully culminate in a final performance at Backstage 76, in Tbilisi. The theme of the piece was ‘moments’, which allowed all of the participants to contribute by drawing on their own experiences.

At the end of the camp, many of the participants expressed the desire for the camp to happen again next year, and noted how they were surprised by their own abilities in the creative arts, and how they were happy that they made new friends with the other participants of the camp. Because of the success of this first Caucasus Connect initiative, the group have decided to go forward with the next stage of the project this coming year, and several DP2 students who were part of the project that have just graduated have also shown interest in coming back to work with developing the project from outside Armenia. The Caucasus Connect group hopes that other students will now be interested in supporting the project, and plan to expand it next year to include students not only in Georgia but from Armenia and other countries in the Caucasus.

Katie, Russia, UWCD'17