Manana Youth Center Fundraises for ‘Sand Animals’ Project


By Gabriella Gage

Mirror-Spectator Staff

YEREVAN —The Manana Youth Center is more than your typical afterschool program — it’s an organization focused on developing the intellectual and creative talents of youth in Armenia.

The multimedia training organization was founded in 1995 and offers free classes in animation, filmmaking, journalism and photojournalism. “Students are educated as artists and critical thinkers, and through Manana’s classes, they become socially minded citizens speaking for their generation,” said Emma Nolan-Abrahamian, center volunteer.

Each year, Manana works with up to 100 Yerevan students, ranging in age from 7 to 16. There are no entrance exams and everyone is encouraged to participate. In recent years, Manana  has expanded beyond Yerevan, conducting workshops in different regions around Armenia.

Originally from New York, Nolan-Abrahamian came to Armenia with Birthright Armenia and Armenian Volunteer Corps. She spent from mid-February to the end of July volunteering with Manana. As a volunteer, Nolan-Abrahamian said, “I typically spent the morning preparing for classes, working on the Indiegogo campaign for the Sand Animals project, organizing student images for Manana’s archives or working on other short-term projects. I taught two photography classes, and an English conversation class each week.”

“I also assisted with two workshops outside of Yerevan, in Charensevan and Gumri,” she recalled.

Since Manana’s founding, the organization has expanded and its students have created award-winning animations, films and images. One such creative endeavor is the Sand Animals project. The “sand” refers to the sand animation stop motion techniques. As part of the project, students will draw animals on sand to introduce viewers to each letter of the Armenian alphabet. “The Sand Animals project embodies Manana Youth Center’s mission of providing youth with quality educational programming in art, new media and technology,” said Nolan-Abrahamian. “It’s a great hands-on way for Manana’s students to build their animation skills, and the finished project is going to look great.”

According to project organizers, Sand Animals has two goals: 1. Produce a visually engaging education tool to teach children the Armenian alphabet. 2. Teach Manana Youth Center’s students to create animated films.

Manana’s animation students will storyboard each Sand Animals episode, create the animations and edit the short film, learning sand animation techniques as part of the process. Each episode will be around 40 seconds. In order to fund the project, Manana recently held a fundraising campaign.

“The reaction to the project has been really positive so far, and we have received good feedback,” said Nolan-Abrahamian. “We have raised $4,257, 53 percent of our goal,” she explained of the fundraising campaign through Indiegogo.

While campaign officially ended August 6, contributions may still be made to the Sand Animals project via the website at http://www.mananayouth.org/donate and all contributions will be kept as part of the Sand Animals project’s flexible campaign.

Students are currently working on the first episode of Sand Animals and will continue their work in the fall.

For more information on Manana Youth Center, visit http://www.mananayouth.org/.