BY JASON SOHIGIAN
WOBURN, Mass. – Climate change is one of the most far-reaching threats facing humanity today. It is already having costly global effects–including in Armenia–on natural systems, public health, and our economy. Some of the effects described by the Union of Concerned Scientists include longer and more damaging wildfire seasons, more destructive hurricanes, more frequent and intense heat waves, growing public health effects, an increase in extreme weather events, and disruptions to food supplies.
Armenia Tree Project (ATP) works to inspire the next generation of citizens who are informed about environmental issues and are geared toward problem solving and taking action. Education is one of ATP’s core programs, and in recent years it has expanded to include Armenian youth in the diaspora with the Building Bridges program. A Building Bridges newsletter is one of the tools used for outreach to youth. A new, seventh edition of the newsletter is focused entirely on climate change. The publication was created by Western Region Operations Manager Sarah Hayes and illustrator Alik Arzoumanian.
Building Bridges is sponsored by a grant from the Thomas A. Kooyumjian Family Foundation. This support allows the newsletter to be distributed free of charge to Armenian students across the United States. It is also available online via the following link:
“After witnessing unprecedented hurricanes and the spread of wildfires in the US and in Armenia this summer, the message is clear. We must act now to protect the environment,” emphasizes Hayes. “We want to educate a new generation of environmental stewards, and our goal is to expand the Building Bridges network to reach Armenian students across the world.”
The Building Bridges program was selected as the National Winner for Armenia of the prestigious Energy Globe Award this year. “We take the prize as a sign that we are moving in the right direction. I invite everyone to support ATP because every one of us needs to take action, whether it’s fighting climate change or helping to put food on the table for a poor family in one of our villages,” adds Hayes.
ATP is also teaching lessons about philanthropy and giving back. This edition of the newsletter includes a coin bank for kids to collect money to sponsor trees. Trees are one of the most practical and cost efficient methods to fight climate change because they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps to reduce the greenhouse effect warming our planet.
In a recent letter to supporters, ATP highlighted several young Armenians who took the initiative to raise money for the organization. “We honor their spirit and will to do good,” says Hayes. “Ani Perl and Alisa Ficiciyan organized a lemonade stand to benefit ATP, Aza Whittlesey had a plant sale at her town fair, and Jacob Mueller represented ATP at his elementary school service walk day. These acts truly inspire us, and we hope you feel the same.”
In Armenia, ATP’s new Environmental Educational Program Manager Kristine Hovsepyan has expanded the program by leaps and bounds. This spring, ATP and Minister of Education and Science Levon Mkrtchyan signed a memorandum of understanding calling for expanded cooperation and the adoption of new environmental education resources in schools throughout Armenia. “It’s a goal we’ve wanted to achieve for years, in order to reach the hearts and minds of students and teachers in every corner of Armenia,” notes Hovsepyan.
This summer, ATP launched an eco camp program in partnership with volunteers from the US Peace Corps. “We reached 190 children for four days in Margahovit, Goris, Kapan, Dzorakap, and Yeghegnadzor. Through hands-on sessions and outdoor field trips, we taught children about the environment and inspired them to care about the issues affecting it. Additionally, the children made new friends, gained team-building skills, and most importantly had a ton of fun,” Hovsepyan says enthusiastically.
The Building Bridges program has continued to grow in the diaspora, and ATP partners with more than 70 schools from Watertown to Philadelphia to Glendale. When the students are on class trips to Armenia, ATP hosts them for an environmental lesson and to plant trees with their peers from local schools. The experience creates a lasting connection and roots with their Homeland that is truly unique and unforgettable.