Hello! My name is Mher Hakobyan. I am from Armenia and recently moved to Brussels to start a European Voluntary Service (EVS) program at the European Network on Independent Living – ENIL.
As this year I will turn 30, last summer I decided to take the last chance and do an EVS program while I am eligible for applying to one. So, I searched through the online database of the European Youth Portal and the project at ENIL caught my attention right away. I had only one day before the application deadline and could not miss such a great opportunity.
To me volunteering at ENIL presents an exceptional chance of contributing to the work of an outstanding organization, which advocates equal opportunities and social inclusion of disabled people and promotes the philosophy of Independent Living and the social model of disability. These approaches and ENIL’s strategy of empowering disabled people to be in control of their lives are the most appealing aspects of ENIL’s mission to me. The first thing that caught my attention was in fact the motto of ENIL: “Nothing about us without us!”, as I find self-representation highly important in any sphere of human rights work.
Though I do not have any prior experience in disability rights advocacy work, I have always been passionate about human rights issues and engaged in the field, both professionally and personally. Before joining ENIL, I worked at the Council of Europe office in Yerevan for a project supporting the justice system reforms in Armenia, and have done an internship at the US Embassy in Yerevan, assisting with research for the Annual Human Rights Report on Armenia. I am also a member of PINK Armenia, which promotes equal rights and anti-discrimination of LGBTQ people. My academic background includes Music Composition, Political Science, and Global Studies. The latter was especially valuable, since I got the chance to study and live in international settings in Germany and the UK – another motivating factor to join the international team of ENIL.
In the coming months, I am looking forward to an exciting and diverse experience, where I will learn about challenges faced by disabled people, strategies and policies to tackle those challenges in order to build a stronger and more inclusive society, and especially ENIL’s contribution to this highly important mission. My main tasks will revolve around the organization and coordination of two of the most important campaign events organized by ENIL – the Independent Living Day (5 May) and the Freedom Drive (to take place from 24 – 28 September 2017). Additionally, I will have the chance to get insight into different policy papers and attend meetings, through which I will gain highly valuable knowledge in the field.
Having already been warmly welcomed by my colleagues, I am sure that the next few months will be fun, exciting, and full of valuable knowledge and experience.