Youth Exchange 1.0

Tsaghkadzor, Armenia

22 September - 1 October, 2017



This youth exchange highlights the overall topic that forms the basis of this project: human rights and social change. We will work with video and photography as an artistic tool for expression and create a message that will generate change. We will focus on being creative and innovative when using photo/video as a tool, and how to make the best out of the equipment we have. We will share ideas, experiences, good practices and work together to create concrete materials.

This phases focuses on following objectives:

-To create a comfortable atmosphere without barriers to express oneself;

-To create a space to talk about the human rights issues existing in our societies and how it affect us;

-To gain specific artistic skills (in photography, video-making, graffiti and street art and digital storytelling) and competences to express ourselves creatively; (with focus on video-making and photography)

-To create a multiplying effect by setting up an internet platform to share our work and inspire others.

After the participants go back, they will start working locally - use photography and video to explore, recognize and capture the human rights issues the young people are facing and/or find important to highlight in their communities.

Take a look on the final exhibition by clicking the button.


Tsaghkadzor is a spa town and a popular health resort in Armenia, located 50 kilometers north of the capital Yerevan . Tsaghkadzor literally means valley of flowers in Armenian language. The name of Tsaghkadzor is associated with the name of the nearby Tsaghkunyats Mountains, located to the west of the town.

On one hand the town is quite old , it goes back to 3rd century, on the other its quite modern with many leisure centres.

So, we'll have contrasting sights, colours and topics to capture :)

DAY 1 - Getting to know each other and the project

#ACTLAB is now officially on. Erasmus+ Youth exchange program is held in Tsaghkadzor, Armenia from 22 of September to 1st of October.

The project is about Human rights education, social activism and promoting them via using different tools like photography, video etc.

Participating countries are: Armenia, Poland, Finland, Georgia and Norway.

First working day was dedicated mainly to name games, team building activities and introducing of the program.

Photos by: Łukasz Rogowski

DAY 2 - Learn more about Human Rights

The second day of the project fully introduced the participants to the main topic. Before starting the basics project members had some fun taking part in a energizer activity, which was competition of hugging. It was nice to see that much people hugging each other in one territory.

The introduction to the project was devided in four stages: 1. The acquaintance with formal and informal educational systems. The people learned the difference in them. 2. The second stage introduced participants to the Erasmus+ programs in general. This phase motivated project members to try to start their own projects in the future, having already gained experience. 3. During the third phase everyone gained the knowledge about the Youth Pass. It is a certificate which can be used in future in finding jobs, joining other projects and entering the university. 4. The last stage, Competence, was devided in four subsections: Values, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge and critical understanding. The participants talked about differences in values and attitudes, about skills and knowledge required to achieve the aim of understanding and accepting human rights.

The next activity was “Human Rights Declaration”, which was the next step of introducing the members to the human rights. Correcting each other’s mistakes helped everyone to know the rights better.

The whole day was about learning new things connected to the topic and the last part wasn’t an exception. It was an interactive game “Who wants to become a millionare” but all the questions were related to the human rights. It was very pleasant that the majority of questions got answered: that means that everyone have already had some information about the topic, and everyone found many new things for them during the activity.

Photos by: Ina Mikkola & Łukasz Rogowski

DAY 3 - Taking Human Rights to the personal level and realizing the issues

The 3rd day of the project “actlab” was full of emotions.

The day started with activity called “Take a step forward” which was connected to the participants' attitudes toward human rights in different places, social or economical status. The next task was really amazing and sad at the same time. Participants wrote some real stories, about their personal experience or the stories about their friends, parents, relatives, classmates etc. The aim of this session was to help participants understand violation of human rights better and despite the differences, it became clear that they had lot of common problems as human beings.

After the sensitive first half of the day, participants were divided into two groups and they staged “imagine theatre.” I would describe the aim of this session in a couple of words: “Details can change the world.”

Photos by: Isan Maher

In the evening using photographs participants introduced some basic information about their cultures to the audience. It was very interesting and through photographs we could share our real culture from our communities and countries.

During the Finnish presentation we had a small surprise when the whole Finnish group entered the room with traditional Finnish music wearing sauna outfit and equipment. A very funny and memorable moment.

We ended the intercultural evening with sharing food and drinks from our countries and having a great party together with lots of music, dance and fun.

Photos by: Łukasz Rogowski

DAY 4 - Photography, video and telling stories

The 4rd day of ACTLAB was a practical day and full with new knowledge . We started the day with a session prepared by Berta on introduction about photography and had a small workshop and discussion looking at famous photos and understanding how powerful photos can be as a tool, and how they can tell very intense and interesting stories full of emotions. With only one picture and a small caption. We continued the rest of the day with photostories and videostories, and we learned basic information about these topics, and we saw examples of how to make stories with photos and videos.

The next session was introduced with the sentence "Photostories is the mix of art and journalism". Chris shared from her knowledge and we learned about how we can include the most important factors in the pictures to tell the story; the magic W's: where, who, when, what and why. We also got some tips and triks how to approach people and how to act when asking them if it's okay to take their pictures. It sounds very easy in theory, and now there was time to practice it. After that the participants wandered around with cameras practicing and taking photos. All the participant were excited and working in groups.

In the end of the day we had also a video workshop with more details about how to create videostories with our phones. The session was full of practical work, where we were split up in groups, some participants were actors, and we got a task to shoot a small video of 2-4 takes, with minimum of preparation. It was very interesting, a lot of fun and we got very helpful feedback from Ina that was running the session. All sessions today was prepares by participants that have experience with photography and shooting videos.

This day was so important and exciting for me, because I had no idea about how to make photostories before this day, and what it means, but this day brings me a new experience and creative ideas about how I can use my camera and phone to tell interesting, fun and important stories.

Now all we have an idea about how to make good but simple photostories and video, and we are ready to try it out the next days.

Photos by: Isan Maher

Photos by: Christina Storbakken

DAY 5 - Shooting for the exhibition

Actlab is becoming more and more intense. The 5th day of the project was dedicated to photoshoot day. Participants were divided in groups according to the different topics they were interested in. All of them were strongly connected with human rights. Some groups made interviews with locals, they asked old people what does the freedom, equality, respect etc. mean for them, as well as attitudes toward past, present and future. Others were concentrated on some things (negative ones) which would be able to change.

Next group tried to keep balance between Positive solution of problems (connected with human rights) and negative things which happen in real life. This group was working on Aggression, depression and conflicts which exist between humans.

Participants were responsible for shooting and editing pictures themselves. Working process is still in progress.

These are the photos that will be used in the exhibition that we will arrange here in Tsaghkadzor in a few days.

Photos by: Łukasz Rogowski

DAY 6 - Excursion day

The Day 6 of our program was a day all of us had been looking forward to. We were going on excursion and do some sightseeing around in Armenia. The day included to drive through some beautiful nature and mountains, visiting some cultural heritage sites and monasteries, and of course a visit to Yerevan, where we met some very cool local activists and had dinner in a very nice carpet factory that was also a restaurant.

We were all excited when we entered the bus and got ready for the day. We were picked up by two marshrutka's, that were gonna take us safely around during the day. Some of us were still a bit sleepy and tired after some long days full of program, so we relaxed and listened to music as we were driving through some very beautiful sceneries and small villages. We went to two very famous monasteries, Geghard and Garni, where we had time to walk around, make photos and enjoy the special atmosphere. Both places are quite special and represents the Armenian history and culture, in Geghard there was even a wedding going on while we were there. At Garni there is beautiful view with mountains around, perfect for making photosessions together with our new friends from the project.

Then we moved on to Yerevan. First we were stuck in the traffic jam for some time, but finally we arrived and had an hour or two to have some time to have some sightseeing in the city as we wanted. The city centre is small so we got to see the most important things, before we met again at Republic square. From there we went to a big green park where some superamazing local activists came to tell us about what they were doing. They were political activists using graffiti and street art as tools to fight against a system that from their opinion is not working. Opposing the authorities in a country like Armenia in this way is quite unique, and there are not many other groups as them, that openly demands change in this way. They were more or less the only group of activists using graffiti and street art, which for some of us was surprising, but also makes their courage and creativity even more impressive.

Here is a link to their facebook page, in case you would be interested in checking them out and suppporting them:

In became late and we were hungry and cold, so we moved on to the restaurant, which also was a carpet factory, yes I know, strange combination. But at the same time very cool. We had a small guided tour around and saw some very cool carpets in all sizer and colors. - and in the next room were our dining room. We had traditional local Armenian food, very delicious and full of different vegetables, spices and interesting tastes.

When we were full and ready to go back to Tsaghkadzor, we went back to the Marsrutka's, and I think I was not the only one who felt a sleep during the trip back... We were all full of new experiences and impressions, and very very tired, but happy.

Photos by: Isan Maher & Marit Moberg

DAY 7 - Preparing Exhibition

This day was dedicated to preparing everything for the exhibition. We spent whole day doing different practical work until late evening. We met in the late morning, still a bit tired from the trip yesterday, but with an energizer and a few moments to get used to the morning we were ready to start the day. We were divided into four working groups; cleaning the exhibition place, an old abandoned restaurant that really needed to be cleaned. One group were working with promotion, both online and offline, making social media event and posters Posters were put up around in the city and we were communicating with the locals. Another group were responsible for creating the program and structure of the day. One group went to Yerevan, to pick up our prints and do the last shopping before the event. In each group we were working hard and at the same time enjoying our time together in the group.

We also received a visit from the local municipality that we have been cooperating with to make the exhibition happen. An older and funny man came and he wanted to greet us and see our pictures. He was very satisfies and it was cool for us to meet the local authorities.

In the end we were more or less ready to finish the exhibition tomorrow. After a very long evening we were all tired and satisfied with our work, and mostly of all we were all looking forward for what tomorrow would bring.

Photos by: Łukasz Rogowski & Marit Moberg

DAY 8 - Exhibition Day and Evaluation

As we decided the previous evening, we started the day one hour earlier to have more time to prepare the exhibition. From the early morning we were excited and a bit stressed about how the final result will be. We were asking ourselves questions like: will the locals come? What will they think about doing the exhibition in the abandoned restaurant? Will they like the pictures of their friends, family or even themselves? Anyway we did our best to prepare all the details. Divided into groups we finished cleaning the space, we decorated it, put all the photos and descriptions on the walls, prepared a small buffet for the visitors, good music and a guest book where they could write down their feelings about pictures and all the event. Apart from that, one group did a very good job of marketing and placed a lot of leaflets and arrows in all the town. All the program was very well prepared.

At 12am we officially opened the exhibition. As all the event happened at the same time as the day of the town, there were a lot of people on the streets and at the main square which was close by. Thanks to that there was an announcement from the stage inviting people to our exhibition. A lot of them were coming all day long, much more than we expected. Children, their parents as well as elder people – all three generations. Their reactions were very positive, they were very interested in what we did. A lot of them could recognize their familiars or friends, and many children saw themselves on the photos. We got a very good feedback from everyone. At one point also the town’s minister of culture came and asked us if the day after we could move the exhibition to the museum so there could be even more visitors.

Shortly after the lunchtime we left the exhibition open but our group moved for last sessions. At 4pm we started with sharing our feelings about what we did today – we were proud of ourselves and the final result. Later we had an introduction to the second phase of #ACTLAB project which will take place in Georgia. There was also a small introduction of graffiti which will be the topic there.

Finally we had the evaluation of the project. There were a few stations where everyone went. In the first one we could evaluate how much did we like different aspects of the project and reflect on our expectations and contribution. We also filled in an official evaluation form. The next two stations were connected with leaving a message to the group. In one of them each person wrote in a bubble something what he or she wanted to say to the group – there is a nice gallery of faces created from it. In the other one we could come one by one to grab a short video where we say the last words to the rest – we will have a video from that which will remind us all the good memories.

In the end we met all together and shared in a circle some last emotions and reflections connected to the project. We also celebrated the success with a symbolic glass of champagne. Then all together we went for dinner which was prepared in a form of surprise by hotel’s staff. After dinner we also revealed the secret friend game and had the Youthpass ceremony. After spending last hours together we had to slowly go back home, but we were all happy that we are going to see each other soon in Georgia.

Photos by: Isan Maher & Łukasz Rogowski

Additional Documentation

Our exhibition now has the online version too:

The video-documentation of the exhibition created by Isan Maher:

The video-documentation of the youth exchange created by Aleksandra Mamcarz:

The gallery of faces and bubbles created by Sylwia Nowak:

The official photo-documentation created by Łukasz Rogowski:

The first youth exchange of #ACTLAB is over, we have discovered how we can use photography as a tools for being activists working with human rights issues, democracy and creating a positive change, locally and globally. We got a lot of inspiration from each other, and now we are looking forward to use what we have learned in our local communities, and then finally meet again in Georgia for the next phase, to continue our work together for a more equal, just and democratic society using creative arts. Next up is to learn more about how we can use street art and graffiti as a tool, and we are so excited.

The second youth exchange will take place in Rustavi, Georgia 24 November- 3. December. More information about the second phase here.

Photos by: Sylwia Nowak

This youth exchange is part of the long term educational project #ACTLAB - Creative Activism Laboratory, which is supported by Erasmus+ and the Norwegian NA Aktiv Ungdom. Applicant organisation is Shokkin Group Norge, hosting organisation for this youth exchange is Armenian Youth League, and partners of the project is Youth for Peace and Equality, Olemisen Balanssia ry and Fundacja Instytut Spraw Rodziny.

Take a look on the final exhibition by clicking the button.

Thank you very much for reading and watching it!