Armenian Disability Sport Professionals Travel to U.S.

A group ten people standing and sitting in wheelchairs hold an Armenian flag.
Armenian participants from left to right: (top row) Hayk Mkrtchyan, Kristine Aghanyan, Karine Grigoryan, Metaksya Miskaryan, Ruzanna Sargsyan, Marine Avetisya (bottow row) Suren Maghakyan, Gohar Navasardyan, Armenuhi Nikoshosyan, Ashot Mkrtchyan
In September 2014, ten professionals from Armenia will tackle the barriers preventing youth with disabilities from engaging in sports through their participation in the second phase of a reciprocal exchange with the United States.

“Sports promote leadership, teamwork, respect, self-awareness, and life skills that are very important for persons with disabilities to be fully integrated members of the society,” says Ruzanna Sargsyan, Program Manager, Armenian Association for the Disabled.

While in Eugene, Oregon, the Armenian delegation will explore practical and strategic actions that will achieve equal participation of girls and boys with disabilities in sports programs.

Activities include:

  • Participate in site visits to disability-inclusive and adapted sports programs
  • Discuss solutions with U.S. government representatives and local community members
  • Live and connect with local host families.

They will also be joined by their U.S. counterparts who traveled to Armenia in June 2014 to continue collaborative plans of action. Learn more about the U.S. delegation and their Armenian experience here. This reciprocal program is sponsored by the SportsUnited Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Learn more about the program in "Increasing Sports Opportunities for Armenian Youth with Disabilities."

Organizational Representatives in the Delegation

Armenuhi Nikoshosyan

Director, Armenian Association for the Disabled (Pyunic) Gyumri Branch


Gyumri, Armenia

I founded the Gyumri branch of Pyunic, which is a NGO with the main emphasis on the interests and rights of persons with disabilities, culture, sports, and education. Being active in sports, I participated in many Paralympic Games and related seminars.I cooperate with many agencies and active in all areas that relate to people with disabilities in education, culture, and sports. I have traveled to Nagano, Japan and Shotley, Minnesota, USA. I graduated from Gyumri State Pedagogical Institute, Faculty of Philology and in distance learning in Territorial Center Faculty of Social Work.

Ashot Mkrtchyan

President, Skarp Health Center NGO


Yerevan, Armenia

I became disabled in 1994 and have been involved in disability sport in powerlifting since 1996. In 1999, I established an adaptive gym for persons with disabilities, which later in 2003 was registered and became Skarp Health Center NGO of which I am the President. After establishing Skarp NGO I developed basketball, arm wrestling, wheelchair long run, and powerlifting teams that have participated to a number of national contests. This will be my first time travelling to the U.S. I graduated from State Engineering University of Leninakan, faculty of Light Industry and worked in the field until 1994.

Gohar Navasardyan

Leading Specialist for the National Center of Technical Security, Ministry of Emergency Situations


Yerevan, Armenia

I have been a daily wheelchair user since 2003 and am a member of a wheelchair basketball team. In 2012 my team placed first during the National Disability Sports Festival in Armenia. Since 2013 I have been working with the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Armenia as a 911 service operator. In 2014 I won the Miss Audience award during a competition for women with disabilities and played the lead role in the musical “Girl on the Moon”. This will be my first time travelling to the U.S. In 2012 I graduated from the Armenian Virtual College; currently I am a second year Psychology student at Yerevan State University.

Hayk Mkrtchyan

Junior Specialist of Disabled Issues Department, Ministry of Labor & Social Issues


Yerevan, Armenia

While a student I was actively involved in the activities of the Student Council organizing sport activities, competitions, games, etc. In 2012 I was hired as a Social Worker for people with mental and health-related disabilities to organize physical exercises, specific games, entertainment events, and cultural activities. In 2014 I began working at the Department of Disabled Issues at the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues, and am actively involved in organizing events and different seminars on the disability issues and cooperating with nonprofit organizations on skill development trainings. My job responsibilities also include improving legislation on issues of people with disabilities and establishing rehabilitation programs. This will be my first time travelling to the U.S. I studied at the department of Political Science of Yerevan State University.

Karine Grigoryan

President & Founder, Agate Center for Women with Special Needs NGO (Agate)


Gyumri, Armenia

I am a disability rights activist who  founded Agate Center for Women with Special Needs NGO and we advocate for the rights of youth with different types of disabilities, with the main focus on women with disabilities. I cooperate with various local, national, and international organizations. Twice I was invited to the United Nations in New York to make presentation on the situation of women with disabilities in Armenia. I am trying to introduce disability and gender perspective in the existing national development programs and agendas. I am a member of the state committee engaged in advocacy for people with disabilities in Shirak Region and Board member of National Disability Advocacy Coalition. I have travelled to many countries including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Germany, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey, South Korea, Ukraine, and Greece on different projects and disability and human rights events. I graduated from Imastaser Anania Shirakatsi University, faculty of Economics and Management of Enterprises.

Kristine Aghanyan

Psychologist & Armenian Sign Language Interpreter, Agate Center for Women with Special eeds NGO (Agate)


Gyumri, Armenia

I work with Agate to improve the quality of life of girls and women with disabilities and protect their human rights through social-psychological integration. The beneficiaries of our organization are youth with disabilities. In my position I hold psychological consultations, take an active role in the process of organizing different cultural events in Gyumri, and I coordinate the youth swimming lessons. I also help the trainers and the youth with hearing disabilities with the sign language interpretation during the swim trainings. Within the framework of different projects I organize sport trainings and workshops and do fitness exercises with girls with disabilities. In 2012 I visited the U.S. as part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

Marine Avetisya

NGO Coordinator and Sport and Dance Organizer, Agate Center for Women with Special Needs NGO (Agate)


Gyumri, Armenia

I work with Agate to promote the improvement of life quality of girls and women with disabilities and advocate for their rights through social and psychological integration. My job responsibilities are to coordinate the activities of Agate, as well as organize sport and dance events. For seven years I have collaborated with sport and youth departments of Gyumri municipality and Shirak Marzpetaran and have organized competitions, including dance shows, between Agate’s youth members with disabilities and young members of our community. This will be my first time travelling to the U.S.

Metaksya Miskaryan

Head of Sports & Culture Department, Lusastgh Charity NGO

Website: none

Vanadzor, Armenia

I am an engineer but have served as a volunteer at Lusastgh NGO since it's foundation in 1998. On behalf of Lusastgh NGO, I have participated in and organized seminars, trainings on disability advocacy, capacity building, and coalition and network building. Since 2003 I have served as the Head of Sports and Cultural Department of the NGO and since 2005 I have managed the Independent Life Center. Lusastgh NGO is a member of the Lori regional committee addressing disability issues and sometimes I represent the organization during the committee sessions. I am fond of traveling and this will be my first visit to the U.S. I studied at Admiral Isakov School #23 in Vanadzor and went to Vanadzor State Technical Institute.

Ruzanna Sargsyan

Program Manager, Armenian Association for the Disabled (Pyunic)


Yerevan, Armenia

Since 1992 I have been working in the Armenian Association for the Disabled (Pyunic) as a Program Manager and since 1994 in the Armenian National Paralympic Committee (NPC) as General Secretary. Both organizations cooperate with various local, national, and international organizations. Once I was invited to Argentina to make a report on situation of gender equality of persons with disabilities in Armenia. Quite recently I participated in Women's Mentoring project in Vienna, Austria in which I mentored a young female athlete from Armenia to become a community leader in the field of sport for development. I have traveled to other countries including the U.S., Japan, Australia, China, Greece, Argentina, France, Italy, and Ukraine on different projects including events on disability, human rights, as well as sport. I graduated from the University of Foreign Languages named after V.Y. Bryusov.

Suren Maghakyan

President, Full Life NGO


Stepanavan, Armenia

Together with like-minded, forward-thinking individuals I founded the Full Life NGO in 1998. Since founding the organization, I have served as the President of Full Life NGO, which strives to protect the rights of people with disabilities and ensure their fullest inclusion in all spheres of life. Full Life has two main goals: advocacy and provision of services for people with disabilities. I am a member of the Regional Committee for People with Disabilities in Armenia's Lori region and a board member of the National Disability Advocacy Coalition. I strongly believe that with the efforts and collaboration of non-governmental and governmental organizations, people with disabilities will be able to gain equal opportunities in Armenia. This will be my first time traveling to the U.S. I studied Social Work and Social Policy at Yerevan State University from 2002 to 2005.