June 19, 2023
Giving your all for the things you believe in
By Wouter Ermens
Wouter Ermens is a passionate 23-year-old student at Radboud University and an intern at Bureau Wijland in Nijmegen. His deep interest in humanitarian issues led him to pursue his master’s program in Human Geography and focus on conflicts, territories, and identities.
When his supervisor introduced him to Shelter City Nijmegen coordinated by Bureau Wijland, Wouter could not miss the opportunity to work closely with a human rights defender. In this story, he recounts his experience interning in the role of a programme coordinator of Shelter City Nijmegen, particularly the challenges and rewards of supporting Mamikon, an LGBTIQ+ rights defender from Armenia.
In 2007, Mamikon founded Pink Armenia, a community-based organization that serves and supports the needs of the LGBTIQ+ community in the country. Mamikon promotes LGBTIQ+ human rights through his organisation and advocates for policy change in Armenia. Mamikon was a guest in Shelter City Nijmegen in Spring 2023.
My time at Shelter City started in February 2023. It was important to arrange everything before Mamikon’s arrival on the 20th of March. From housing arrangements to contacting relevant organisations and individuals for Mamikon to connect with during his stay; I can happily say that everything went smoothly.
The first days were designed to give Mamikon a well-deserved rest. After restoring his energy levels, a welcome dinner was prepared by our dedicated project team. The following period found us invited to the city hall on multiple occasions and meeting Mayor Bruls, alderwoman Daemen and members of the city council. I was really inspired by their support and compassion for Mamikon and the causes he fights for.
More than a project
I was truly impacted by how Mamikon gives his all for the things he believes in; his resilience and perseverance through threats and his support of those in need.
In late March, I participated in the Shelter City Netherlands partner meeting organised in The Hague and connected with colleagues from Justice & Peace Netherlands and other Dutch Shelter Cities, which provided me with valuable insights into the network. I had the opportunity to engage with other Shelter City guests and listen to their stories.
My most memorable experience with Mamikon was his goodbye event. Taking the stage at the Music Meeting Festival in Nijmegen, Mamikon captivated the continuously growing audience with his speech at the, ironically enough, ‘All Ears stage’. A loud round of applause and goosebumps in the crowd followed after the end of his speech.
I was truly impacted by how Mamikon gives his all for the things he believes in; his resilience and perseverance through threats and his support of those in need. For this reason, it was a great pleasure for me to be able to give some of this support back to him. Together with the project team in Nijmegen, I hope to have been able to contribute to Mamikon successfully continuing his work in Armenia and inspiring others.
Want to show your support for Shelter City Nijmegen?
Join the 4th edition of the Solidarity Walk taking place at Land van Ooij in Nijmegen on 8 July.