The BEARR Trust Annual Conference, 16 November 2018 – programme and speaker biographies

The conference will be held at CAN-Mezzanine, 32-36 Loman Street, London SE1 0EH

To book your place please click here

“Disability and Inclusion in Eastern Europe and Central Asia”


09.00   Registration and coffee

09.30   Welcome and Introduction – Nicola Ramsden, Chairman of The BEARR Trust

09.45   Overview – changes in attitudes to disability, challenges of stigma and inclusion – a Russian and a British perspective

Anna Portugalova, Director, Downside Up, Charitable Fund Moscow

Andrea Bennett, former BEARR Trustee, Chair of Trustees at ‘For Us Too’, East Kent, UK

Discussant: Professor Christopher Gerry, Associate Professor of Russian and Eurasian Political Economy, School of Global and Area Studies, Oxford

Chair: Nicola Ramsden, Chairman of The BEARR Trust

11.00   Coffee

11.30   Leaving care, accommodation, supported living, accessibility

Maia Shishniashvili, Hand in Hand, Georgia

Dilmurad Yusupov, doctoral researcher, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University and co-founder of NGO    “Sharoit Plus”

Chair: Ali Lantukh, Trustee of the BEARR Trust

12.30   Buffet lunch

13.45   Inclusive education and training

Tanya Buynovskaya, Director of Operations, Healthprom, UK

Viorica Cojocaru, CCF (Child, Community, Family) NGO, Moldova

Chair: Ross Gill, Trustee of the BEARR Trust

14.45   Tea

15.15   Employment and employers; digital access

Iryna Los, Director, Centre for Legal Assistance, Open Doors NGO, Nikopol Ukraine

Vardine Grigoryan, Board Member, “Disability-Inclusive Development” NGO, Armenia

Chair: Biljana Radonjic Ker-Lindsay, Trustee of the BEARR Trust

16.15 Conclusions

16.30 Close (Participants are invited to stay for a glass of wine and informal discussion)


Here are details of our speakers:

Andrea Bennett


Andrea is a writer and novelist. She worked in Moscow in the 1990s as a translator and editor. After returning to the UK she worked at The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. More recently, she managed a small charity supporting families of disabled children and young people in East Kent, where she is now Chair of Trustees. Andrea’s twenty year-old-son Archie has CHARGE Syndrome which has resulted in severe learning difficulties, visual impairment, hearing impairment, autism and a heart condition.





Tanya Buynovskaya, Director of Operations at HealthProm, UK


Originally from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Tanya joined HealthProm in 2003. She spent her early career working in education and educational policy for a number of non-profit organisations in Krasnoyarsk, as well as the voluntary sector in London after moving to the UK.  Since 2008, she has been leading HealthProm’s child disability and inclusive education programmes in Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus and managing a number of EC-funded projects in these countries. Since 2014, she has been working with Russian NGO Tsentr Sotrunichestvo in Krasnoyarsk to develop and implement a number of inclusive education projects in Siberia. She currently leads HealthProm’s project ‘Siberian Initiative for Inclusion‘ supported by the European Commission and the British & Foreign School Society. She holds a BA in Education.




Viorica Cojocaru

Viorica is a psychologist by professional background, studying for her PhD. Since 2002 she has been working on the rehabilitation and social and educational inclusion of children with special needs. Since 2011 she has been working as expert in inclusive education at the NGO CCF (Children, Communities, Families) Moldova in a complementary government programme for deinstitutionalisation reform – part of a national strategy on deinstitutionalization and child protection for 2014-2020.








Professor Chris Gerry, Associate Professor of Russian and Eurasian Political Economy at the School of Global and Area Studies of Oxford University, Dean of St Antony’s College and Chair of Russian and East European Studies.

Chris was Professor of Health Economics and Head of Internationalisation at HSE University in St. Petersburg (2014-2017) and has held various tenured positions at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (2002-2014). He has a BA and MA in Economics from the University of East Anglia and a PhD in Economics from the University of Essex.

Chris’s research has focused on the social, economic and health impacts of the changing economic circumstances in Russia and Eurasia. He has published in leading journals on topics including health policy, smoking behaviours, social exclusion and inclusion, inequality, wage arrears, vulnerability, gender and mortality. He is currently developing a project examining mental health policies and reforms in Russia, Ukraine and Georgia.




Vardine Grigoryan


Vardine is Democracy Monitoring and Reporting Coordinator at the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor, where she has been working since 2011. She is also a Board member of the “Disability-Inclusive Development” NGO and of the Non-Discrimination and Equality Coalition; and political campaign coordinator for the Coalition for Inclusive Legal Reforms. Vardine drafts reports for international organizations on democracy and human rights issues in Armenia with a focus on elections and local governance, protection of human rights defenders and activists. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Ohio University, USA. As a person with a disability she is interested in changing the conventional narrative about disability and people with disabilities and in the promotion of legal amendments to facilitate inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in political and social life.



Iryna Los


Iryna is a lawyer and head of the Center for Legal Aid of the NGO Nikopol Center for Spiritual and Social-Psychological Rehabilitation, “Open Doors” in southern Ukraine. She is coordinator of 25 projects on advocacy and human rights protection, which seek to work with local authorities, law enforcement agencies, and deputies to protect the rights of vulnerable groups in the population. She also works on human rights issues with other NGOs and leaders of religious communities. Iryna has studied at several international human rights schools. In 2013 she joined the monitoring group of the Ukrainian national mechanism for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment in places of detention, participating in monitoring visits to institutions under the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Policy of Dnipropetrovsk region. In December 2017, Irina was awarded a diploma by the Human Rights Commissioner for significant achievements in the field of protection of human rights and freedoms, and professional participation in monitoring visits. She has coordinated two projects supported by BEARR Trust grants in 2017 and 2018.




Anna Portugalova

Anna Portugalova is CEO of Downside Up, a Russian-British Charity working to improve the lives of Russian people with Downs syndrome. Anna has a master’s degree in the field of Economics and Computer Science from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and a Certificate in Business Studies from the American Institute of Business and Economics. Anna has 17 years’ experience of leading Downside Up, is actively involved in work to change attitudes to people with learning difficulties in Russia. Also, Anna leads projects to create a system of family support and conditions for social inclusion of people with learning difficulties in partnership with Russian government bodies, kindergartens, rehabilitation centres, schools etc.




 Maia Shishniashvili

Maia  is the founder of ‘Hand in Hand’, an NGO supporting social inclusion. She has worked in the field of public health for more than two decades. Prior to founding Hand in Hand, she worked for the Georgian Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs as Advisor to the Minister. She then moved to the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health and became the head of the newly established Health Promotion Division. Shishniashvili has an MD and MPH from Tbilisi State Medical University, and MS in Community Health education from Western Illinois University.

Maia, who has a child with disabilities, founded and developed the first community- based housing service for adults with disabilities in 2011. Hand in Hand’s work is evidence that community-based services for people with disabilities is compassionate, doable and preferable to people living in institutions isolated from society. Hand in Hand’s residences typically serve three to five people in an apartment. Today, they provide community-based housing for 25 people with disabilities and additional social support services to many more. In 2016, Maia became co-founder and the first elected head of the coalition of organizations of parents called “Movement for Change”. The coalition advocates for rights of people with disabilities and their inclusion in the community.




Dilmurad Yusupov

Dilmurad Yusupov is a Doctoral Researcher at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex. He is currently applying ethnographic and participatory research methods to analyse issues of social exclusion and marginalisation of people with various impairments in Uzbekistan. His PhD thesis is on “Exploring the Potentials of Community-based Inclusive Development with Disabled People in Uzbekistan”, aimed at empowering disabled people through participatory action research and evidence from ‘the bottom up’ to improve disability policies and development interventions.  Prior to joining IDS, Dilmurad worked for Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Embassy of Japan in Uzbekistan in projects and programmes aimed at improving social protection and rehabilitation of disabled people and other vulnerable groups in Uzbekistan. With a group of disabled leaders he co-founded a local NGO “Sharoit Plus” (“Opportunity Plus”) in Tashkent to promote an inclusive society for all. Dilmurad has an MA in Economics (with specialisation in Development Economics) from Waseda University in Tokyo, and aBachelor’s degree in Economics from Moscow State Institute of International Relations.