May 5th was a proud day indeed for the youth of Tavush Province who took part in the “Mardigian Olympics.” The multi-faceted competition, the first of its kind, saw 168 young athletes from more than 23 local schools compete in seven different sports, including the long jump, basketball, and weight lifting.

The Mardigian Olympics are a part of FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) and are named after the program’s benefactor. BCPP commenced in 2013 with a goal to reduce poverty in 17 communities of the Berd Region of Tavush by empowering people through improved economic development, education, healthcare, and social and child protection.

The tournament was dedicated to May’s triple holidays — the victory at Shushi, the formation of the Artsakh Army, and the victory of Soviet troops during World War II. Artsvaberd Village School’s team won gold for the tournament overall. Berd #4 and Berd #3 school teams took second and third places, respectively. Winners received medals, certificates, and trophy cups.

Eighth grader Hayk Gyozalyan of Berd #3 School won first place in push-ups. “I really liked the atmosphere of the competition. For the first time in my life, I saw so many school participants who were enthusiastic about this tournament. It was a pleasure to win, to compete with other schoolchildren. Now, I am more self-confident than before. I know my strength and will try to practice sports more often,” said the 14-year-old.

BCPP focuses greatly on investment in the children of region, empowering them with the tools they need to create better futures for themselves and their communities. Improving education and its accessibility is a key component of the project and finding creative and healthy outlets in an area where there are few to no opportunities is a part of that.

“The Mardigian Olympics is very important in terms of igniting youth’s interest both in healthy lifestyle and in sports. Hopefully, it will be a stimulus for the physical health development in the region,” said FAR Education and Science Programs Director Eduard Karapetyan in his congratulatory speech during the awards ceremony.

BCPP is a multidimensional FAR project addressing child poverty in the Province of Tavush, sponsored by the Edward and Helen Mardigian Foundation.