In a world filled with challenges, some individuals and organizations rise above adversity to make a lasting impact. One such organization is oqni, a dynamic Armenian-based NGO that has emerged as a beacon of hope for the amputee community. Founded by a dedicated duo of (now former) Diasporan Armenians Hajk Bagradjans and Haikouhi Oroudjian, oqni is on a mission to develop advanced mental health solutions and bionics, empowering amputees and reshaping societal perceptions.
The Catalyst for Change
The year 2020 became a pivotal moment for Armenians worldwide as the devastating 44-Day War unfolded, shedding light on the immense challenges faced by the nation, particularly amputees. Confronted with an already substantial number of amputees and limited resources, Hajk Bagradjans and Haikouhi Oroudjian were propelled to take immediate action. "Having grown up far from our homeland, witnessing the pain and horrors of the Artsakh war inflicted upon our country stirred intense emotions within us. We felt an unwavering need to contribute and aid our people in rebuilding and healing from this traumatic experience," Haikouhi explains.
The name "oqni" holds profound meaning and reflects the mission and values of the organization. Derived from the Armenian word for "help," it resonates with familiarity and urgency. It serves as a reminder of Armenians' collective responsibility towards one another. The founders sought a name that would not only be easy to remember and pronounce but also evoke a strong sense of accountability. Together, as Armenians, they can make a difference through donations, volunteering, and sharing their stories.
A Holistic Approach to Empowerment
At the core of oqni's philosophy is a holistic approach that addresses amputees' psychological and physical well-being. Recognizing that the mind and body are interconnected, oqni ensures that their solutions provide comprehensive support. As the co-founders express, "We deal with soldiers who have given a part of themselves to their country... We want to be the help they need, and if we don't have the tools to help, then we will contact our list of partners and find the adequate people who can help," Haikouhi says. Their holistic approach also emphasizes community, collaboration, and solidarity.
The co-founders' diverse backgrounds in business strategy consulting, psychology, and AI data science have shaped the approach and impact of oqni. "The brain is a powerful tool... We knew that, for oqni to be sustainable and have a long-term impact, we needed to include AI in our solutions," Haikouhi explains.
The decision to bring together professionals from these interdisciplinary fields was essential, as it allowed Hajk and Haikouhi to address the complex challenges we faced in a comprehensive manner. “As a business strategy consultant, my expertise lay in structuring and analyzing problems. I was able to contribute by identifying the key areas where oqni needed to excel in order to succeed. However, I quickly realized that a single person couldn't possess all the necessary skills to tackle the breadth and depth of our goal,” Hajk explains.
To overcome this limitation, the two formed a team comprising therapists, engineers, and designers. The expertise of therapists enabled them to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of their users, ensuring that our platform provided the necessary support and guidance.
And as repatriates themselves, the founders of oqni found synergy with Repat Armenia's mission of supporting individuals who wish to engage with the homeland. By establishing oqni in Armenia, they provide tangible support and foster a sense of belonging for diasporan Armenians. Volunteers from around the world have joined their cause, creating a collaborative environment where Armenians from different backgrounds work together to build a stronger nation.
A Future of Empowerment and Progress
Looking ahead, oqni envisions a world where their model becomes the norm, and societal stigma surrounding amputation fades away. They aim to expand their initiatives globally, advocating for the rights and protection of the disabled community. "We want to build a world where the oqni model becomes a norm... We're really excited about the future," Haikouhi says.
oqni is a testament to the power of resilience, compassion, and collaboration. With their unwavering commitment to the amputee community, the organization has become a beacon of hope, empowering individuals and reshaping societal perceptions. Through their innovative solutions, holistic approach, and global network, oqni is creating a world where amputees can thrive and where their potential knows no bounds. Together, we can embrace the oqni spirit and join the journey of empowering amputees to live fulfilling and participatory lives.
In the spirit of the oqni mission, individuals from all walks of life can become a part of this transformative journey. Whether through volunteering, contributing donations, or sharing the stories, anyone can contribute to empowering amputees and reshaping societal perceptions. Let's join hands with oqni to create a world where compassion and collaboration lead to lasting impact and a brighter future for all.
Title photo: Patrick Slesiona
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