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Mаry Mamyan

Dilijan Resident with Poor Eyesight Tries to Break Stereotypes Through Art

A 32-year-old man with extremely poor eyesight in Dilijan, northern Armenia, tries to break people's preconceived notions of people with disabilities through his art. 

"You can't just go up to a person and say, I have a problem. I try to present that through art," says Vache Grigoryan. "I've never been restrained in society, that I have vision problems so I shouldn't interact [with people]. I myself have tried by interacting to break stereotypes, that a person who has a physical impediment, a person with limited abilities is a full member of society."

Vache, who began singing in 2001 when he was 19 years old, already had two solo concerts in Dilijan and surrounding villages. He doesn't have a musical education, but that doesn't bother him. His first song was called "Sincere Love' and since then, he's written more than 20 songs and more than 90 poems.  

Vache says he works better when he's in love: if there's no love, the work itself will be fruitless. 

His greatest dream is "to become the nation's favorite singer." 

However, he has experienced discrimination, particularly in dealing with employers. They might display a good attitude but not hire you. At the same time, Vache is convinced that this will change over time and you shouldn't blame people but inform them. Apart from his volunteer work, he very much wants to have a stable job and income.  

"It's not easy to interact with the public when you have vision problems and limited abilities. It's very difficult to integrate into society," he says. "I was able to overcome it. But in Dilijan we haven't yet reached the point that a person with limited abilities can work. But it's not only like that in Dilijan — this problem exists everywhere. When you raise [the issue], report it, people's attitude gradually changes."

Though he is not employed, he never has a lack of projects. He has organized two sightseeing tours of Armenia and is currently discussing with his friends the program of the third tour. In recent years he has been involved in several volunteer programs, participated in various classes, and he himself has taught classes in order to get young people to become more active in their city. Vache collaborates with local and international NGOs and acts as a correspondent for the local press. One of his favorite pastimes is listening to the radio, but he says it's a pity that Dilijan doesn't have its own radio station.  

While his brother and sister-in-law are at work, Vache spends time at the computer. He communicates with his friends on Facebook with the help of a voice recognition program. "Sight is not a problem for me, in order to engage in social activities," he says. 

Vache, whose nearsightedness is measured at -10.00, says he sees images in shadow, but he doesn't use a cane. If necessary, he seeks assistance, but he tries to be independent. He learned long ago how to navigate the streets of Dilijan.

"During difficult moments, optimism helps me to go ahead. I think, it's life, everything is possible […] Memories help me: I try to remember past good days," he says. 

He tries to use even his free time effectively and develop new programs so that they're more interesting. But he confesses that it's hard to get young people out of their homes and involved in programs. Vache believes that young people today have a lot of concerns: the lack of employment and socioeconomic situation force them to focus on earning money. Even at their young age, many are disillusioned. 

"But if I, a young person, and another young person say it won't work, the others will be disappointed. I have to serve as an example," says Vache. 

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