Since Armenia gained independence in 1991, people with disabilities or from socially vulnerable groups found themselves in a vacuum as the new state could not support them any longer. Scores of volunteers and international organizations have tried to fill the gap, helping them to find work and be involved with small businesses, hence providing a sense of purpose and a much-needed income. They are engaged in a wide range of activities from producing homemade food and spices to making handcrafts. Typically, these products are sold abroad through online shops and donor organizations.
Vahagn and Zara, a couple from Sisian, are pottery makers. Zara designs products and patterns while Vahagn creates the objects. The Homeland Development Initiative Foundation (HDIF), an organization founded by the American-born and Yerevan-based toy designer and Consul for Norway and Finland, Timothy Straight, supports them and helps them to sell their products abroad.
“Goris Crochet” is an organization founded by the Women's Resource center of Goris, in southern Armenia. The association employs mainly women from vulnerable groups who produce handmade toys and wool carpets from natural raw materials.
“Goris Crochet” provides an essential income for more than 40 people.
“Talin Dolls” is a women's collective set up in Talin, a town in northwest Armenia. The group, which employs women also from the surrounding villages, produces dolls with Armenian national garments and sells them online.
Socially vulnerable women from the villages in Tavush province, on the border with Azerbaijan, work with “Berd Bears”, an organization based in the Armenian town of Berd, which is part of the network of the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation. “Berd Bears” mostly produces toys, adornments, dried spices and jams.
The initiators of “Yereqnuk” handicrafts are the teachers of the art school in Koghb, a village on the border with Azerbaijan. The proceedings coming from the sale of the art craft has allowed the art school to remain open.“Yereqnuk” produces hand-painted leather wallets, bags, bracelets and rings.
In Vanadzor, Armenia’s third largest city, “Apricot”, an organization established by young entrepreneur Gayane Khachatryan, employs people with disabilities. They create kids toys and wood souvenirs.