YEREVAN—Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS) is excited to announce the launch of the Assarian Relief Initiative. The project, funded by longtime supporters Dr. Gary and Linda Assarian, is multifaceted and foresees the creation of a co-ed soccer league in Artsakh, the organization of summer camps, as well as soccer related activities for Artsakh children displaced by the recent war and currently residing in Yerevan and other regions of Armenia. The Artsakh leg of the initiative is co-funded by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative.
The Assarian Relief Initiative seeks to support children who have been affected by the war and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and will create safe spaces where children can have a sense of normalcy, develop their leadership skills and work on their physical and mental wellbeing.
“It is paramount that we support our children who have been affected by the war, to create safe spaces for them to be physically active, work on their mental health, learn leadership skills and have the opportunity to just be kids,” said GOALS CEO Teny Avakian. “The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, therefore the work that we do today and the efforts we make with our children will determine what kind of future Artsakh and Armenia will have. And to that end the wellbeing and social integration of every child counts.”
The official launch of the program took place on March 1 in the Republican stadium named after Stepan Shahumyan in Stepanakert.
At the start of the war in Artsakh in September 2020, as Armenians around the world scrambled to figure out how to contribute, GOALS initiated activities and games for children that were displaced by the war and were at that moment in time residing in Yerevan. During this time we saw that the need for kids to step away from all the problems surrounding them and just being kids is great. With the war coming to an end we recognized that the need for our work to continue exists. Therefore, parallel to our regular sports for social impact programming in regional Armenia, we decided to be on the frontlines contributing to the relief efforts of the existing humanitarian crisis.
The objectives of the Assarian Relief Initiative are to create a safe space for the children to work on their physical and mental wellbeing, develop their leadership skills, and provide children with a sense of normalcy through sports. Through these efforts we foresee to, both directly and indirectly, impact the lives of some 500- 1000 children.
The Assarian Relief Initiative program includes three main components:
- Establishing activities in Yerevan for displaced children from Artsakh
- Establishing activities in the regions of Armenia for the displaced children from Artsakh
- Launching a soccer league in Artsakh with a pilot of five co-ed teams.
Initiatives in Yerevan and the regions
Soccer clubs will be organized for displaced children from Artsakh currently residing in Yerevan and the regions of Armenia. It is foreseen to have at least one club in Yerevan and at least four in the regions open to children aged 10 to 17. The bi-weekly trainings aim at helping children who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and war related mental health issues; developing leadership skills and highlighting the importance of equality, inclusiveness, ect.; and creating a safe space where children can have a sense of normality and be physically active.
The establishment of the Artsakh League
Within the frameworks of this component it is anticipated to establish five co-ed soccer teams in Stepanakert, Noragyugh (Askeran region), Ivanyan (Askeran region) and Vank (Martakert region). Each team will consist of at least 12 players aged 10 to 17. They will have bi-weekly training sessions, based on a curriculum inclusive of the needs of children who have been affected by war and with PTSD.
Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS) is a non-profit, non- governmental organization operating in Armenia since 2014. It is the only sports organization in Armenia promoting gender equality through sports- primarily in rural Armenia- and is dedicated to empowering girls and young women across Armenia by promoting health, life and leadership skills through their participation in an all-female soccer league. GOALS’ Theory of Change is rooted in the philosophy that sport can be used as a vehicle for transforming society and expanding the possibilities of its participants. The Theory of Change can be summarized into three core activities: (1) creating safe spaces for young women and children to participate in sport, (2) educating communities and challenging existing stereotypes through sport for social impact curriculum, and (3) fostering strong partnerships with local institutions to lay a sustainable framework for our activities. GOALS provides the infrastructure, coaches, equipment and resources to create girls’ soccer leagues in rural communities across Armenia. Currently over 750 girls from 70 communities participate in the organization’s activities.