First International Congress in Yerevan, Armenia

From October 1 to 3 Yerevan hosted the first International Congress for people with disabilities in Armenia. “Mayri” NGO, an art center for the integration of children and adolescents with disabilities, together with Kharberd Children`s Home, famous NGOs “UNISON” and “PUNIK” for people with disabilities, French-armenian Developement Foundation (FADF and Civil Society Institute (CSI) “became the initiators of this Congress. The Congress was held in the framework of the European Congresses “Living in an Encounter”, which have been conducted worldwide.

The event attracted the attention of the public thanks to the originality of its idea and participating countries list.  The participants list did not only cover neighboring Georgia, but also the Russian Ural, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany and France. There were about 120 participants of the congress instead of the expected 100. It was great to see the attention of State to the Congress. The representatives of ministries of social protection and education attended the opening ceremony of the Congress. They opened the Congress, expressing their interest towards what people with disabilities think.


On preparation stage of the Congress many of the organizers confessed that the idea of such Congress itself was very unusual. Armenia where after the earthquake of 1988 there was a huge number of disabled people, has long been fighting for the rights of people with physical disabilities and many of non-governmental organizations were created to treat such problems, and they achieved a lot in this direction. However, with regard to the issues of people with mental problems, the struggle for their rights is still only in its initial stage, and if the first steps in integrative education already exist, the problems of young people with mental problems are still far from being solved.

As it turned out, even people with physical disabilities have psychological barriers of communication with people with mental problems. But we are happy that the Congress took away all of such barriers, and we all were convinced in the absolute necessity of emotional potential that people with mental disabilities carry for our society.

Thanks to the efforts of the working group composed of representatives of the five most active non-governmental organizations of the country which are involved in solving the problems of people with disabilities, the Congress was attended by young people from nine non-governmental organizations as well as different individuals.

Several workshops, including Armenian dance, Armenian song, art, theatre and hand working were organized. Later on, we witnessed how the Armenian dance with its magic moves that aggregate to the power of earth united those, working in the group and then practically all the participants. And then a song sounded, and it was too similar to the sound of the celestial spheres. And particularly touching was the fact that Armenian song was performed by Russian soloist who tried to carefully pronounce Armenian words.

The group of painting presented the image of heaven and earth, and a collage of bouquet of flowers painted by different participants that grow up in the space between them. The hand work group made the logo of the Congress of metal junk. The last part of the concert was performed by the clowns, who combined all the participants in their cheerful play. They handed out beautiful notebooks, made by young “Mayri” “inhabitants” to all participants.

The trip to Geghard ancient monastery was not less exciting. In the beginning all the participants scattered throughout the territory, and then suddenly everyone gathered in the ancient church itself, which is carved in the rock. And so Armenian, Russian and Georgian chants sounded one after another. And then not only the Congress members but also other people began to sing. The amazing acoustics echoed this multiethnic chorus.

Many meetings, sadness of parting. Confidence that this events will be beginning for the future collaboration between different Armenian organizations involved in the social therapy. A solid solution to provide opportunities for people from different organizations for communication and working together.

Zaruhi Manukyan