human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Finding love with Armenian Caritas

First Inclusive Bakery and Cafe in Gyumri

When they first met in 2018, Anush Mkrtchyan and Misha Asoyan were both participants in 9 Steps to the Labor Market* project, an employment preparation course specifically adapted for people with disabilities. Although Anush had to quit the programme early because of family reasons, she still learned much from her experience. “The Nine Steps course was very, very helpful… I obtained life skills, like how to improve my communication. It was also the first time I met people with Down Syndrome.” The “9 Steps” experience was similarly instructive for Misha. “It helped me to understand that people with disabilities aren’t ignored,” he adds. “It gave me self-confidence for my work.” In the long run, the experience was fruitful for both young people; each eventually received a job offer through the EU-funded “First Inclusive Bakery and Coffee Shop in Gyumri” project.

After attending the grand opening of Aregak Bakery & Café**, Anush asked about volunteering and earned a job after proving her excellent capability as a server and cleaner. Customers routinely comment on the way her bright smile and joyful personality boosts their mood. Although she spends much of her day’s work interacting with customers and keeping things tidy at the cafe, her favorite task is something different. “I love to look after the flowers and plants we have out front,” she says. That sort of task is right up Misha’s alley. In spring 2019, he began to work in the barrier-free garden at the Emili Aregak Centre. “I like to work in the midst of nature,” he says. “And I like the people at Emili Aregak very much. They are good, kind and always ready to help.” Regarding his career future, Misha says that time will tell. “I just want to see this project continue. Everybody deserves to find work.” Anush continues to enjoy being a part of the Aregak family, although she hopes to pursue her academic profession – pharmaceutical work – down the road. Wherever the two end up in the coming years, they’ll be there together. The happy couple married in October 2019 and is very thankful that, in addition to their work, they found something even more important: love.

* Nine Steps to the Labour Market” equips young adults with disabilities with the soft and professional skills they need to successfully prepare for, seek out and apply for work. The training was developed through a cooperation between Emili Aregak Center of Armenian Caritas and the Gyumri branch of the State Employment Service, and covers the following topic areas: 

  • Skills development and assessment
  • Self-recognition
  • Self-assessment
  • Time management
  • Stress management
  • Applying for jobs
  • Writing compelling CVs and cover letters
  • Interviewing 
  • Workplace ethics and teamwork 

**Armenian Caritas is implementing a unique project known as the “First Inclusive Bakery and Coffee Shop in Gyumri.” Financed by the European Union, the Austrian Development Cooperation and Caritas Austria; the project promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities into the labour market by depicting the disabled employees as assets. We believe, that by focusing on the strengths of people with disabilities and building upon those abilities, their potential in the labour market is limitless.

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Sarah Stites

Communications & Fundraising Specialist at the Armenian Caritas Emili Aregak Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

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