Vlad Andreev (Moldova)
Vlad Andreev is a photographer from Chisinau, Moldova, who is always on the move. Thanks to his talent for taking beautiful photographs, he gives people joy every time. People who know Vlad well always notice an open smile on his face. His strength of mind and optimism in life is something everyone can envy. Vlad is 30 years old and he believes that his success in his work has come from working hard on himself and constantly improving in photography. In 2019 Vlad became the “Gala Tinerilor Super Eroi” photographer of the year.
Vlad has cerebral palsy. He has had mobility difficulties since childhood. But that was no reason for him to give up. He has always worked hard on himself, practiced sports (gymnastics, swimming, armwrestling) and this has helped him to be in shape now.
Vlad worked for many years for various projects, including social projects aimed at charities, where he helped people and taught them how to make a living for themselves. He says “I had a unique project ‘Dizabilitatea văzută altfel’ (translated: Another View of Disability) to make society see people with disabilities as equals, because they too can work, study, build a family and enjoy life.”
Vlad dreems von going around the world to take photos and make it into the world’s top 100 photographers.
Olga Afanas (Moldova)
Olga Afanas, educator and psychologist-coach aus Chisinau, Moldova. She is 38 years old. She is a translator and teacher of English and Romanian. In 2012 Olga opened her own company for translation, editing and for educational activities, personal development and psychology training. She is also vice-president for international relations within the Ecological Green Party in Moldova. Olga considers the promotion of women at all levels very important, including in decision making for the State. This year she was first on the party’s list of candidates for the parliamentary elections.
She says, “When you first start a business, you face a lot of obstacles. Back then, there were no special courses for women entrepreneurs or for people with disabilities who wanted to start their own business. Despite this, I had great enthusiasm to try. I knew I could do it, as I had entrepreneurs and accountants among my friends and relatives. I knew that I could always count on their support and help in the form of advice. My family supported me morally and financially. My relatives understood that it was very hard for me to work as a salaried employee. When I started my own business then I needed to have my own start-up capital. Thank God, now in Moldova there is no such need and it is possible to open a limited liability company.”
Serghei Obade (Moldova)
Serghei Obade, carpenter, says, “My dream is to make my work a decoration for interiors all over the world”. Serghei is a native of the north of Moldova from the village of Mihaileni, Riscani district. He is 34 years old. His technique is original: he combines wood (walnut, oak, maple or cherry) with glass to obtain 3D works of exceptional beauty, which are difficult to take your eyes away from because of the visual effects. His exquisite handmade products (tables and doors) not only grace the interiors of Moldovan customers but also spoil the eyes of clients all over Europe. For his work, he orders the highest quality wood and processes it with the utmost care.
The car accident he suffered 11 years ago robbed him of his freedom of movement, but strengthened his character and strength of spirit. Despite the difficulties and the long years of rehabilitation, the young man has decided to move forward no matter what.
“The most important thing is to find a job that not only brings you money, but also pleasure and an outlet for you. In any business, of course, the support of people close to you is very important. For example, at the beginning of my business, my family, especially my sister, helped me a lot. Any monetary investment is a risk and responsibility, but the gamble is worth it if you like your business, if your eyes sparkle. I started experimenting a lot, of course there were mistakes, but I kept learning and moving forward, improving my work every day.”
Anush Aslanyan (Armenia)
In 2019 Anush Aslanyan from Armenia founded “EREO style” sewing and printing social enterprise.
Anush: “Social entrepreneurship provides an opportunity to create a social value, to do something useful for the community by solving the problem of employment of persons with disabilities. I was pushed by the idea that we could be a successful example for employers, so that they understood that persons with disabilities could be good employees and do quality work.”
When she learned that the British Embassy in Armenia is conducting a social entrepreneurship course, she took part in the year-long training. I thought I had the opportunity to implement my idea. As a result of a year-long training, I gained a comprehensive idea and understanding of social entrepreneurship.
The more I dived into the field, the more I felt the need to acquire new knowledge, without which it was impossible to succeed.
In 2017, Anush applied for a grant to create a social enterprise. Having successfully received funding, she started organizing sewing and printing training for persons with disabilities in Vanadzor. Keeping in touch with the participants who successfully completed the training, they started to create products: cloth dolls, decorative pillows, kitchen aprons, etc.
At the moment she has been leading “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities” NGO for about 8 years.
Ashot Mkrtchyan (Armenia)
Ashot founded the gym in 1999, with the main goal to maintain the health of persons with disabilities and improve their physical condition. He says, “Years ago, when I founded this gym, I did not imagine how important role it could play in the people’s lives․ People not only train here, but also gain self-confidence, become independent, motivated, feel themselves a full member of the society, due to which many of them achieve success both in personal and professional life.”
Today it is an inclusive gym with all necessary equipment, where people with and without disabilities can train. People with different types of disabilities and without disabilities train and work together, share their experience, make friends and communicate. It promotes inclusiveness in the society. Being a unique gym, it has attracted the attention of state bodies and has been valued by them.
Anyone with a disability over the age of 14 can train in the gym free of charge. Ashot`s team mainly takes care of the needs of the gym with the money that is collected from the payments made by people without disabilities.
Ashot would strongly advise people with disabilities to try to found a social enterprise. He says: “It is a way to start your business and to spread your ideas and values. Thus, PWDs are not just waiting for positive changes in the society but they initiate and implement those changes.”
Suren Maghakyan (Armenia)
Suren founded in 2010 the Full Camping Stepanavan summer inclusive camp in Stepanavan, Armenia. It was founded thanks to donations.
Every year about 150 children with and without disabilities enjoy their summer vacation at the camp.
The camp provides interesting entertainment and leisure, creates an environment for communication of persons with and without disabilities and the children get to rest in nature.
There are services of a psychologist, speech therapist, ergotherapist, art therapist provided to children with disabilities and they have an opportunity to meet and communicate with volunteers from different countries.
The children also learn for life, the workers at the camp teach them cooking in specially adapted kitchens as well as craftsmanship like pottery and woodworking.
For children with disabilities the participation is free.
Suren says: “It takes a lot of effort to succeed in social enterprise. It requires obtaining new knowledge, skills, detailed planned preparatory work and activities. As a result it gives economic profit as well as an opportunity to create social value. The camp promotes inclusion. Resting here, people see that the divisions are very artificial. This will be a positive experience for everyone.”
Ana Goguadze (Georgia)
Ana is a 34 years old woman from Tbilisi, Georgia. In 2016 she founded Cafe “Mziuri” as a social enterprise.
Anna’s initiative had many supporters. First, she got the space from the Tbilisi City Hall for a period of 2 years, which was extended three times by the City Hall. As well as she got financial support from such big companies as TBC Bank, Geocell, etc. Anna also received a grant from the President of Georgia at the time and with this money she bought a sound system for the cafe.
“Mziuri” has a great impact on society. Various events, such as outdoor movie times and exhibitions are held here. The cafe helps to raise people’s awareness and change their attitudes by creating an inclusive space. The cafe is adapted and any person, be it disabled or not, has the opportunity to visit.
E.g. Children are no longer surprised to see people using wheelchairs. In addition, the cafe takes care of the environment – uses eco-friendly packaging. In the cafe you will find a box in the corner for collecting clothes for homeless people. Also noteworthy is the fact that Mziuri helps to increase the awareness of Georgia as a country. The cafe was involved in the campaign “Day without meat” and that fact Paul McCartney himself responded with a Facebook post! So, to sum up, Cafe “Mziuri” is one of the coziest places in Tbilisi and it still has a significant impact on the environment and the people who come here.
Ana says: “Never be lazy to do something. When you want something very much, you definitely have to work hard for it. Of course, it is not easy. First of all, you need to sacrifice yourself to set an example for others.”
Toma Kakabadze (Georgia)
Toma is a 36 year old activist from Batumi, Georgia. He has been working for the protection of the rights of people with disabilities for 8 years already. He founded an organization that mostly employs people with disabilities. He is one of the founders and the author of the idea of the social enterprise cafe “Free Space”. Currently he has handed over the management to a friend, he himself is a head of a non-governmental organization. Although he remains himself in the cafe as a decision-maker.
The organization was newly founded when a friend introduced the German Embassy Grant Competition for Social Entrepreneurship. Toma decided to start working on this project together. The reason is simple – there was no adapted space where people with disabilities could be invited to various events in Batumi, a few years ago.
“Free Space” is a cozy, favorite place of the people of Batumi, which has a great impact on society. First, an accessible space was created for people with disabilities. Other disabled people are also employed here. All this helps Toma to create an inclusive environment and raise the awareness of citizens. In addition, by creating an enterprise and receiving assistance, Toma has established a culture of volunteering. It is also important that the space gives some benefits to people / organizations who do activities on the topic of disability (e.g. they do not pay rent), etc.
“Don’t be afraid. If you decide to do something, you have to finish it. You need to be active and work hard. It is difficult to do something without resources. But there are many nuances that ultimately change society for the better and it is worth fighting. The key is faith in the idea and something will definitely come out.”
Aleksandr Makarchuk (Belarus)
Aleksandr from Borisov, Belarus, found himself in a wheelchair in 2003 but has not lost faith in his own abilities.
At the beginning of 2010, he launched his first social project, “Without Limits”, aimed at adapting and integrating people with disabilities into society. During the project, he learned the profession of a website developer, which later became a source of income. He assembled a team of people with disabilities who have achieved success and recognition in society. They share their knowledge and skills, which help disabled people to believe in themselves and integrate into society. There are already 35 people involved in the project. The project has 4 awards, became a finalist of the 8th Social Weekend 2016, in May of the following year the project took 1st place in the CIS competition “World of Equal Opportunities” among 490 participants, in 2019 it became a winner and winner of the same festival in the “Road to Life” category. Last May, the project became a non-profit organization.
In February 2017 it officially registered a sole proprietorship and became self-employed and promoted employment for people with disabilities. Was recognised as the best employer in Belarus in 2017.
Aleksandr says: “If I had to start again now, I would do it without hesitation, because having already had some experience, skills and knowledge, even if starting a business in a completely different field, I would not be afraid. The most important thing when you start any business is not to be afraid. Because if you don’t try it, you won’t know. And solving any problems when starting any enterprise, any company, starts as they arise.”
Aleksandr Makhortov (Belarus)
Aleksandr lives in Belarus. Since a motorbike accident in 2000 he has been in a wheelchair. Once he started converting his and his friends’ cars to manual operation. Within two years, he realized that this was a good niche for opening a business, especially since the flow of customers kept increasing. Aleksandr contacted the employment office, registered as unemployed, and found out from the officials that he could open his own business and receive a subsidy from the state, which was about one thousand dollars in equivalent. So he opened a private company in 2011. The enterprise produces walking simulators, active wheelchairs, and wheelchairs for various kinds of sports.
At the very beginning Aleksandr asked Mr. Karpenko (now the Minister of Education), Deputy Chairman of the Minsk City Executive Committee, for help, and Mr. Karpenko helped him find a barrier-free room. Aleksandr received financial support to start a business.
Aleksandr says, “Thanks to my company, I was able to expand my social environment and make new friends.”
Olga Poloshovez (Belarus)
Olga (Belarus), 48 years old, started losing her eyesight after 7 years. The final loss of vision came at the age of 30, after the birth of her second child.
With this type of disability, such as vision loss, it was not possible to find a job in the normal labor market. Olga has been involved in social entrepreneurship for the past 6 years. Because she realized how important it is for people with disabilities. Olga says, “There are a lot of people with disabilities who have incredible potential, but employers are afraid to hire them. That’s why I take these people to work, because they have the will to work harder, better than people without disabilities. Today there are 11 people with disabilities working in my business.”
Her latest project, Aurora Grand, is the youngest social entrepreneurship project and it has a division called the “Center for Creative Solutions for the Visually Impaired”. The center fosters empathy towards blind people and by visiting the center people will never pass by a blind person, which makes them more tolerant. And also, it’s about creating jobs and a professional team of visually impaired people.
First of all, it was interesting for Olga to understand that all responsibility rests on her own shoulders. Secondly, she realized her potential, believed in herself and knew that she could do everything on her own.
Andrej Zelenov (Russia)
Andrej (Russia) is 34 years old, co-founder of “Crazy Travel”.
The project was launched in 2018 by three co-founders – two athletes and one person with a disability. The project deals with extreme and mountain tourism on Elbrus and other peaks in Russia and the CIS. One of the company’s activities is inclusive extreme tourism. In terms of inclusive teams the project works and has extensive experience in organizing ascents for people with all types of disabilities – hearing, sight, locomotor system, including people in wheelchairs. The exception is a disability related to the cardiovascular system.
On average “Crazy Travel” performs about 16 ascents a season (5 months a year), of which at least one group includes one or more people with disabilities.
Andrey was disabled as a result of an injury of the thoracic spine in 2008, a consequence of a car accident. Since that he has been a wheelchair user.
Andrei has an active lifestyle, engages in sports, including extreme sports and its promotion among people with disabilities, and is active in volunteering.
Roman Aranin (Russia)
Roman Aranin is a Russian inventor and CEO of Observer, a company that produces and repairs rehabilitation equipment for persons with disabilities (PWD). Head of Kaliningrad public organisation of PWD “Kovcheg”. In 2014 he became one of the winners of the Russian competition “Social Entrepreneur”.
After the accident Aranin needed a wheelchair. One of his friends, engineer Boris Yefimov, helped him to design the “Passer-by” in 2010, the first wheelchair that Roman was able to use without assistance. Together with the engineer Boris Efimov, he developed a model for a wheelchair. The first such wheelchair was manufactured in a Taiwanese factory. Roman later went into business based on this design. He created Russia’s first enterprise producing special equipment for PWD: before that, almost all electric wheelchairs, not to mention more sophisticated products, were imported.
In 2012, Roman, together with Svetlana Nigmatullina, Tatiana Anashenko, Dmitriy Andreev and Aleksandr Vasenin, created Ark, a public organization for people with disabilities, which he heads to this day.
According to Roman himself, his business depends heavily on the state, which allocates funds for PWD to buy a wheelchair. With active support from the state, sales increase.
Roman says, “When you do something that nobody has done before you, you create rules. You dictate them – it should be like this. And others have to catch up with you. That’s the thrill.”
- Vlad Andreev (Moldova)
- Olga Afanas (Moldova)
- Serghei Obade (Moldova)
- Anush Aslanyan (Armenia)
- Ashot Mkrtchyan (Armenia)
- Suren Maghakyan (Armenia)
- Ana Goguadze (Georgia)
- Toma Kakabadze (Georgia)
- Aleksandr Makarchuk (Belarus)
- Aleksandr Makhortov (Belarus)
- Olga Poloshovez (Belarus)
- Andrej Zelenov (Russia)
- Roman Aranin (Russia)