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Armenian Adaptive Sports Advocates Visit Eugene

Karen Richards

For the past week, a group of Armenian professionals have been visiting Oregon. Hosted by Eugene-based Mobility International, they aim to bring back tools to help youth with disabilities in their country.

The 10-day program is sponsored by the State Department. It has included a rigorous schedule of meetings and demonstrations. Suren Maghakyan founded Full Life, a group that works for the rights of people with disabilities. He says programs in his country have a lot of catching up to do:

Maghakyan: “The situation in Armenia is a little bit different, because we have a heritage that we get from the former Soviet Union. And during those times, people with disabilities were segregated from the whole society. It was institutionalized.”

The most popular adaptive sports in Armenia are power lifting and wheelchair basketball. The delegation hopes to find ways to offer a broader range of sports and make programs more affordable.

Ruzanna Sargsyan manages the Armenian Association for the Disabled. She says she was happy to meet Eugene mayor, Kitty Piercy:

Sargsyan: “For me, it was very, very interesting, very impressive how she thought about the issues of persons with disability. There is no segregation for her among people with disabilities and without disabilities. She just see a person. She sees a person like a personality, and everything in Eugene is done for a person. That was really very impressive for me.”

During the exchange, the delegates stayed with host families. They appreciate the accessibility in the homes as well as in the city. Suren Maghakyan:

Maghakyan: “I think that Americans, particularly people in Oregon, must be proud of what [they have].”

At the end of the visit, the delegates will recap their week, and develop an action plan for their return to Armenia. Maghakyan is the joker of the group:

Maghakyan: “I think that the plane will be much more heavier than when we arrived here, because we gained a lot of experience.”

Both guests expressed their thanks to the United States and to Mobility International for arranging the exchange. They return to Armenia Sunday.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
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