David Mhitaryan is trying to make a difference for his home country of Armenia.
Mhitaryan, a 10-year-old Grade 5 student in Marianne Maltby’s class at Weledeh Catholic School, is an example of a young citizen trying to make sense of a major international conflict.
Earlier this year, a conflict broke out between Azerbaijan and neighbouring Armenia over a disputed area called Nagorno-Karabakh.
The situation raised caught the world’s attention this fall and Mhitaryan attended demonstrations with other Yellowknifers of Armenian descent in the fall at the legislative assembly on Oct. 10 and at city hall on Oct. 15.
Maltby said that Mhitaryan had many questions and concerns for his family in Armenia including his grandfather and grandmother. He worries about the safety of his relatives and the landmarks that he cherished from a trip to the country a few years ago.
Every week since September, Mhitaryan, with the support of his classmates, gathered their class’ recycling to give to Maltby and her neighbour Manushak Nazaryan, who is of Armenian descent.
Recently the class provided Nazaryan a $100 cheque that represented the recycling accumulated between September to December.
In an interview this week, the soft-spoken Mhitaryan explained his motives.
“I’m raising money to send to Armenia so that they can make it better there,” he said.
“We gave a cheque to one of my mom’s friends who is Armenian two weeks ago.”
“I also wrote a letter to the Mayor to see if we could make stuff better for people here in Yellowknife but also making things better for people in Armenia.”
Maltby said the stress of the conflict has noticeably impacted Mhitaryan.
“It has been hard and we have talked about his parents having to stay up late to take phone calls from relatives in Armenia,” she said, noting the time difference between Armenia and Canada. “You don’t want to tell a child everything about the situation because (you) don’t want to upset him too much. But what do you tell a child about war?”
As a result, Maltby has encouraged Mhitaryan to try to make a difference with the recycling project.
She also encouraged him to apply for the Mayor for a Day Campaign, where youth are encouraged to apply to the city about what they would do to make the city a better place.
Mhitaryan had asked to be able to raise awareness about the conflict and to erect the Armenian flag at city hall.
“I am an Armenian and right now there is a war going on,” he wrote in his application letter. “If I was mayor I would raise the Armenian flag at city hall so the people can learn about Armenia. I would like the city to support them and to know what is going on there right now.”
One of his classmates – Leanne Karembera – was picked as the mayor for the day, but the exercise was one way Maltby was trying to encourage him during the situation.
“The whole thing has shaken him up a bit and I’ve been trying to boost his confidence and get across to him that words do have power,” Maltby said.