Nor Luyce: Enlightening and Empowering the Young Women of Gyumri

Now that the gyms are closed as part of the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, I’ve been forced to run outdoors to maintain my workout routine. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not prefer the great outdoors over a treadmill. Running against the elements is not my idea of an enjoyable run. High winds, gravel flying in my face, unseasonably cold temperatures, and the consequential, troublesome runny nose only add to the challenge of mustering the daily resolve to complete a 40-minute run. But what are we without our challenges?

Nonetheless, the downtown Philadelphia backdrop and the sunshine have made my outdoor runs somewhat more pleasant and provide inspiration during an otherwise trying experience. The moment during which I feel most energized is when I head back south on Kelly Drive toward the art museum. When I’m facing south, the sun is against my back and I feel empowered with strength and determination to finish my run. With the energy of the sun on my back, I’m not running just in my own strength; I’m convinced I’m supported in every endeavor and grace is looking down on me.  

Energy, particularly the energy that dwells in our surroundings, is very important. Even during a workout at the gym, I look for and position myself in proximity to people who are running with power and strength so that I am stimulated to maintain my own. Just as it is on the treadmill and on the running course, so it is in life. The conduct, content and concepts we are exposed to, and those we tolerate and with which we identify, greatly influence our ability to push through challenges and reach the pinnacles of success. 

Mediocrity feeds us narratives that create negative, distorted visions of the possibilities that lie within us and within the world in which we live. When we lack awareness, those narratives become our personal truths. This is why the mission of Nor Luyce Mentoring Center for Youth is very important to me. Nor Luyce intercedes the narrative of defeat and empowers adolescent girls to see the world in a “New Light.”

When Arevik Qocharyan joined Nor Luyce as a mentee in 2012, she was not punctual, was consistently absent, and had no desire to participate in meetings and activities. At home, her father suffered from heart problems and was unable to provide for his family; her mother worked as a nurse, and they lived in a metal container called “domiks” with Arevik’s two sisters and brother. 

Today, Arevik is a success story. She has pursued and received two degrees, recently graduating from the college of nursing and pharmacy from Shirak State University. She is working as a nurse in a hospital in Gyumri and is praised as a knowledgeable and admired colleague. After five years as a mentee, Arevik became a mentor for Nor Luyce as well as for a Peace Corp initiative called, “Girls Leading Our World,” where she has enlightened young girls on personal hygiene. She is also engaged to be married and looking forward to continuing her work as a healthcare provider in Gyumri.

In addition to breaking negative behaviors and narratives, Nor Luyce has enabled Arevik to give effective presentations and helped her earn scholarships that have supported her pursuits in higher education. The Nor Luyce mentoring program is a three-phase program for adolescent girls from orphanages and socially vulnerable families, empowering the girls to become self-sufficient and globally aware young women. During Phase One, mentees are connected with mentors tasked with the goal of improving their emotional stability and helping them overcome life’s challenges. Once that goal is achieved, the mentee advances to the second phase, where she learns about career planning and life skills. In the final phase, mentees meet with public figures to learn about the keys to their own successes. 

According to UNICEF, children who grow up in orphanages face a number of psychological issues, such as feelings of despair, insecurity, high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem (especially among female adolescents), inability to adjust to their environment, inability to take action, failure in school, feelings of guilt and poor communication skills. 

This year, Nor Luyce is celebrating 10 years of creating opportunities and breaking barriers for adolescent girls. Over the course of this last decade, the organization has enrolled nearly 200 young women in their program and conducted nearly 7,000 hours of meetings that have introduced the girls to subjects such as overcoming fears, work ethic, interpersonal skills and leadership training. Ninety percent of Nor Luyce’s mentees have remained engaged with the organization, either through mentoring current participants or by staying in touch with Nor Luyce on their progress. 

As our world navigates a pandemic and social distancing mandates, Nor Luyce has managed to stay in touch with its mentees and continues to carry out sessions with virtual meeting capabilities and individual phone calls for those girls who do not have reliable access to a computer. 

I am inspired by the unwavering commitment of the leaders and mentors of the organization and am looking forward to the opportunities and growth that lie in the next 10 years and beyond.

The possibilities are infinite, as long as we position ourselves for it. 

Note: The stories of Nor Luyce’s mentees are shared with permission.

Noushig Hovhannesian

Noushig Hovhannesian

Noushig Hovhannesian lives in Philadelphia, PA and is a Birthright Armenia alum, an ARS member and chair of the Advisory Board of Nor Luyce Mentoring Center for Youth in Gyumri, Armenia.

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