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'I never had any particular affinity for bees,' says Suren Grigoryan with a smile. The 37-year-old from Sisian took short-term vocational classes, organised at the Sisian State College and eventually became a beekeeper. Following a serious car accident, the biggest challenge for him was to “reconcile the present with the past,” as he is in fact “a very active man”, but isolated himself from friends and family after the accident.
“I’ve been battling memory loss after the accident. Now, I believe, it is around 80% restored and I can fully dedicate myself to my craft of beekeeping,” Suren says.
It is his third year at Sisian State College; recently he scored a stable job after gaining the necessary practical and theoretical skills. He enjoys sharing his expertise on bees and their peculiar societal hierarchy. His engagement with a peer community helped him fix the gap between “before” and “after,” he says. Asked if all is well now, Suren replies “My life is back to normal, but in life it’s never ‘all well’..
Narine Movsisyan, 29, has found her calling in embroidery, colorful typography, and laser engraving. She has taken up a stable employment at Vayots Dzor State Regional College, situated in the small town of Yeghegnadzor, a two-hour drive from Yerevan.
“There aren’t that many things that the four walls of one’s room can give to a person,” Narine says. “My work is my happiness. When I was taking woodworking classes at the college, I woke up every day looking forward to them.”
Narine is interested in all fields of art and says she is always on the hunt for new techniques and ideas. She doesn’t quit, even when things go wrong in the learning process. Her willpower is stunning, considering how long she has had to deal with rejection and stereotypes when seeking employment.
“When one has a disability, especially a visible one – for example, I use a walking aid – potential employers assume one also has invisible disabilities that will hinder the work process,” she says.
Narine has applied for an exhibition in Moscow and is excited about her first trip outside Armenia, though she cannot imagine living somewhere else. It’s not that she doesn’t like change, it’s that she loves her friends and her work, she stresses.
With her mother worried about her poor vision and hand disability, Hripsime Poghosyan had to learn handcraft in secret from a very young age. But now that she sees her daughter’s enthusiasm for art, she has come around. 37-year-old Hripsime goes as far as to call art her life’s calling.
When she was offered classes at Armavir State College of Art, she insisted on taking two different courses. Often losing track of time and space because she liked the classes so much, Hripsime realized that she already knew a lot. Hripsime could even teach some skills to her fellow students. That’s when she discovered what she wanted to do in the future – teach children with disabilities and in orphanages different forms of handcraft.
Now Hripsime works at the college’s Printing House, a newly-established social enterprise. On the side, she sometimes poses as a model during painting classes.
“One day they just approached me and asked me if I’d model for them, because apparently I have very artistic features.” she says.
Though she doesn’t know much about painting, she says it’s next on her "to-learn list". Besides collecting many portraits of herself, Hripsime likes to help the college students with their art projects.