23 June, 2014

Tell a different story: story of two centuries

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Category: European Action Day, Refugees' stories
Ruxandra Pandea
7 am

Story of two Centuries

by Vugar Adigozalov

I was born in a sunny summer day, and then the sun sat down, and never came up again for a long time. As I was living life as a minority and refugee for 21 years I used to have goals instead of dreams: while struggling with life under a rain of bullets and bombs, you have no time to dream. There is no choice but running, if you stop you will be killed. For living, for inspiration and for making steps forward we need to hope, to dream and to pay the price for making our dreams happen.

Both in last decade of XX century and first decade of XXI century, Azerbaijani people experienced different and difficult situations, but what a pity that it loses was not in respect with benefits. There was a time when war was fought for lack of choice; today it is peace that is the non-choice option.  Today it is clear that classical diplomacy and strategies were aimed at identifying enemies and confronting them. Now we have to identify dangers, global or local and tackle them before they become disaster.

In order to be an effective public servant and activist, I need to be both educational strong and skilled. If in most developed countries social workers and human rights activists are well educated and can be compared to a Formula One race car, in our reality I would be  a beat-up jeep with a lot of tools in it… Here, we are going off-road from day one. The race car is just not going to work in our environment.

I started my “help others” journey 7 years ago by joining Internews Azerbaijan’s “Crossroads” peace building project for which later I received Constitutional Court Honor Diploma “For Role in Democratization and Civil Society Building”. Then I joined the “European Liberal Democrat Party“, which events affected my political vision. Later on as a young Liberal Political Leader from Azerbaijan I was one of 6 co-founders of Liberal Youth Network of Caucasus (LYNC) which brings together Liberals from all over Caucasus together. LYNC turned to be an open and strong platform for public diplomacy, sharing thoughts, and unique meeting point for refugee youth to share their stories.

During all time I felt direct “impact” of war on my life, and the propaganda about enemy country on mass media influenced me a lot. Once under the support of “Internews International” I got the chance for first time in my life to meet an Armenian Journalist, A.A., whose family also suffered from the war. All my stereotypes broke down: yes she was also an ordinary human being like me who has feeling, who eats the same meal at restaurant with me and so on. We talked to each other too long about the life which we lived and we came to conclusion that there is no winner in wars, but just people who suffer. Then we did a documentary where the main heroes were from both sides speaking about their “enemy” friends who helped them even during the war. A second project of us was “media4children”, which aimed to create shot social themed films about common problems that young refugees and minors face in both countries.

Working on projects which can save one’s life inspires me a lot, as I don’t want any other man to suffer from wars. Even if after all that happened to us we can cooperate, it means that others also can do it. During all this time my only purpose was to take action that brings positive change and standing up for values that I believe. .

But for all this time only one thing was missing: making money and finding sustainable solution for problems. As during all this time, the projects done were externally funded and supported by different organization and institutes, no matter that their long lasting effect, capacity and coherence was low because of lack of material source.

Then I met Professor Yunus Mohammed at One Young World summit.
Prof. Mohammed gave me a brilliant advice :“Try to find sustainable solutions that will not only solve problem, but also turn it into money.” Everyone knows that Professor Yunus received Nobel Peace Prize for his extreme high impact on development with the help of invented micro-credit possibilities for people from emerging markets, especially in Bangladesh. And for me, make sustainable projects which also bring money turned to be next challenge. But how?!

As most of developing countries, also Azerbaijan is facing difficulties in terms of youth participation and unemployment, which mostly begins from a corrupted, very poor and outdated education system. It mostly affects young people with under privileged background as refugee and IDPs but also other marginalized youth. Most of young refugees are either jobless or working at very basic jobs, no matter of their higher education. Which is very hurtful. While quality of education that students get during their undergraduate education is debatable, in parallel it is not the fault of the student who spends 4 years of its life for education, unfortunately not everyone can afford abroad education too.

As young activist with a refugee past and an European education I was aware of importance of skill based on education and indispensability of solution to unemployment problem without good quality education. Also, lack of English knowledge and other social educational factors makes job opportunities to remain un-approachable by youngsters.

During all the past years I never thought about making social responsibility project and making money out of it. Entrepreneur spirit was the only thing missing, as before I was working for marketing and advertisement industry to earning my living and I was doing as well voluntary projects for gender equality, human rights, minority and refugee rights issue and so on. While being economically independent had its own pluses, as I was doing my best and free of charge for social impact, it also had its minuses such as limited time and not being much effective because lack of sources, energy and un-sustainability.

As before, I used to either make money, or social impact, now I should do both of them at the same time, something which was challenging but also possible. Professor Yunus Mohammed became my idol of social entrepreneur, both during his sessions and on my lucky personal metings, during which we talked about the importance of sustainable social business. My sketches of my future project was becoming a reality.

Now I had all components for the better start, professional recommendations, good friends, experienced partners and energy for doing it.

First thing to do back in Azerbaijan for me was establishing my team and start my new project which should be sustainable, and help unemployed youth with refugee and marginalized background. After 5 months of hard work and preparations we had that exact project which will help young jobseekers to combat unemployment and also bring money which will be the seed capital for our next projects. We are aiming to deliver skill based education to young people that can easily find jobs or become and entrepreneurs.

“All the experts are experts on what was.”- but we want to be an expert on “what will be”, I we want to become an expert on the future, vision must replace experience.

Life is about doing and it is always easy to establish job for yourself rather than looking for job. We are sure that Science must be learned, it cannot be conquered and the source of material wealth and political power have changed, no longer are they determined by the size of territory occupied by war. Today they are a consequence of intellectual potential, obtained principally by education.

Today we reached the age where dialogue and education is the only option for the best world. Changes are possible, changes are essential and of course for this, we need to stand up for the values that we believe in, we need to take action!


Refugee Day

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