During my childhood climbing trees was about having fun, pretending to be in a make-believe world, or learning to build a treehouse. I have fond memories of a particular tree house which was built on a massive weeping willow tree, and a particular malus tree – both in my grandparent’s yard. I, with my brother and cousins could be frequently found in one of these trees. I am able to smell and feel the warm summer air from those days as I write this. These memories bring a smile to my face, as they are memories children should experience.
This past weekend Armen Hovsepyan (GPH Administrative Coordinator) and I went to collect photos of the lesser seen areas of Gyumri. At the first chosen location, we witnessed a much different version of climbing trees than the memories of my youth. A boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old was climbing a tree, but not because he was in his imagination. He was climbing the tree to break off branches to heat his home. His sister, around 9 years old, was at the base of the tree collecting what the boy managed to forage. To add to the already dangerous situation, he was within half a meter of an active power cable. Personally, the most surprising part was that the children were laughing and smiling while carrying out these activities, meaning this is what they consider to be normal childhood fun. Needless to say, this was further heartbreaking.
This is the reality for children living in temporary housing. Every day is met with risk and struggle. Every day is filled with questions of whether they’ll be warm at night, or if they’ll have food for the next day. These are not worries for anyone to have, especially children.
In Gyumri’s not so distant future children will be playing in the trees, not working in them.