The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed many people’s perceptions of reality. The impact of Covid-19 has left people afraid and uncertain of longer-term goals. This fear and uncertainty have resulted in several social-psychological problems both for children and adults. In Armenia, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict of 2020 exacerbated the impacts of the pandemic and made it even more challenging due to the conditions of war.
People in Armenia were in dire need of psychological support to overcome the adverse consequences of both the pandemic and the conflict. To mitigate their effects and contribute to the longer-term socio-economic resilience of vulnerable groups, the Pahapan Development Foundation implemented the project: Establishment of System of Psychological Support for vulnerable people in Tavush affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and war, within the Covid-19 Solidarity Programme. This project was made possible with funding from the European Union and the efforts of People in Need.
The project was implemented in the region of Tavush, one of Armenia’s most vulnerable regions. Tavush is subjected to regular shelling and subversive attacks on civilians, creating an atmosphere of alarm and constant danger. This crisis intervention counselling program combined the efforts of the Pahapan Development Foundation with a consortium consisting of Bridge of Hope, the Apaga Centre for Psychology and the Tegh Foundation in reaching the goal of supporting those affected by Covid and conflict.
Within the project, more than 400 people have been directly provided with socio-psychological and educational support and services, training, supervision, and mentorship. Around another 200 people benefitted indirectly in terms of being involved in the sessions and provision of services.
Inga Harutyunyan, the CEO of the Pahapan Development Foundation, notes that “this program is a big step towards the implementation of a model psychosocial delivery system in Armenia”, and she is sure that it can be replicated not only in Tavush but also in other regions.
The psychological training was of great assistance to children living in the frontier villages of Armenia as they could express their emotions, feelings, and concerns through indoor and outdoor activities. Some of the children overcame challenges by painting or making crafts, while others felt relaxed by speaking to their peers about the same threats and concerns they experienced.
Nare Grigoryan, a psychologist, says that it was fun for children to participate in all those psychological sessions because they learned about fear and could find solutions to their worries by themselves. “Children wrote fairy-tales group by group and composed a song based on that. We remixed it with sound art effects,” says Nare. An exhibition of artworks was organised within the project, which served as an expression of encouragem ent for children to showcase their talents and achievements gained during the training.
Overall, the socio-psychological and educational support and services, training, supervision, and mentorship were ways to overcome the destructive effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war in the Tavush region. The lessons learned through this project have the potential to be replicated in the other regions of Armenia.