Callie : Who are you, Mina ?
Mina : I’m Mina, the founder of Voyageons avec Mina, the association I created in September 2018 following a misadventure with my wheelchair upon my return from South Korea in 2016.
Callie : If you had to do an assessment of 2022, what would you say ?
Mina : For the association, 2022 was a year of significant questions. What will we become ? When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it became complicated for us, as the association was primarily focused on travel. So we had to find an alternative way to continue exploring despite the situation, and we launched The Little Salon of Mina. The main goal was to travel differently, through your articles, Callie, and by sharing videos on our YouTube channel. Meanwhile, we had a financial opportunity thanks to le Conseil Général that awarded us a grant. It allowed us to make substantial progress in developing The Little Salon of Mina, enabling us to film and edit videos.
Callie : Can you tell us a little more about The Little Salon of Mina ?
Mina : The Little Salon of Mina consists of videos and articles that highlight the atypical life experiences of disabled people. Its purpose is to demonstrate that we, as disabled individuals, are « normal », although I don’t particularly like using this word. We aim to emphasize that we are just like everybody, and capable of creating projects just like any other person would.
Our videos are posted on our YouTube channel. They also allow us to organize interventions in schools and high schools, just like we did with l’Agence Koa, so as to dispel the stigma surrounding disabilities. At Voyageons avec Mina association, we speak about disability from the perspective of being disabled individuals ourselves. We know what we are talking about and so we can deliver messages that truly reflect our own experiences.
Callie : What are the changes that the association experienced in 2022 ?
Mina : In 2022, the association welcomed new volunteers. An association doesn’t work alone, volunteering is essential to build a non profit project.
Amazing projects, including a humanitarian initiative, are currently in development, precisely thanks to our volunteers. We strive to work for disabled people worldwide and those who have joined our team have opened our eyes to new horizons. Currently, we are aiming our support to Togo where we can contribute within our capabilities, as we realized that we are comparatively fortunate in France. Voyageons avec Mina is built on a foundation of solidarity, and we are dedicated to extend our support to other countries addressing their own issues.
Why Togo ? Within the association, we have two volunteers, Bernadette and Winnie, who are native of Togo. Their firsthand accounts of disability in Togo have deeply impacted us and sparked introspection. We’d like to provide support, and also to create videos and articles thanks to life experiences of people we will encounter there.
Callie : And what about interns ?
Callie : Welcoming interns is highly informative, since it involves managing and integrating new individuals into our team. While we are open to welcoming new interns, it is important to acknoledge that overseeing them requires time. Volunteers, on the other hand, are just volunteers, with their own personal constraints and activities.
Even though we would like to expand the Voyageons avec Mina family, we already have a great little team and I’m happy with what it has become. We started with 3 volunteers, and now we have around 15.
When I founded the association, I never imagined it would be so chaotic. To live, an association needs to persevere to get grants, to build a budget, etc. With the volunteers, we support each other and we strive to transform Voyageons avec Mina into a wonderful reality.
Callie : How do you feel about 2023 ?
Mina : We are pleased and honored to announce that one of our major projects will come to fruition in 2023, an incredible event for our humanitarian initiative for Togo. Other travels are still planned to demonstrate that going on a trip when you use a wheelchair or when you are visually-impaired is not impossible. We all face our own difficulties but travelling is not impossible. Everything is possible, or at least everything is adaptable.
Callie : What has been the evolution of the association since its early stages ? What kind of look do you currently take at Voyageons avec Mina ?
Mina : Voyageons avec Mina is a part of my personal story. But it is also a collective journey. Our shared objective is steadily being achieved. Sometimes, when I reflect on our progress, I realize just how far we have come. You can’t really figure it out from a outsiders perspective, but the way covered so far has been long, seeking for grants, striving to raise public awarness and connecting with a large range of people. All that stuff takes time. Voyageons avec Mina has taught me the value of patience whereas patience doesn’t come naturally to me. But, personally, I have learnt not to give up and not tunning out to critism. A lot of people point out the association slow progression, however it is important to recognise that these things take time ! Today, things go the right way.
It’s not only thanks to me, but also thanks to the volunteers, to their suggestions and the discussions we have. A non profit project calls for collaboration, exchanges, and above all, solidarity.
Callie : Are you proud of where the association is today ?
Mina : Yes ! Although I’d like things to progress faster, of course, I’m proud of what we have already accomplished. Before aiming to help others, what we need is to help the association grow. Some may say that we haven’t undertaken many actions, however it is crucial to establish solid foundations first and then build projects over.
Callie : And besides, it may not be immediately visible, but we are already engaged in numerous small actions : we film, edit and release videos, we write articles, we talk about disability to people around us… We are actively working !
Mina : Yes, right.
Callie : Is the association still located at the same address ? Where can people find and contact us ?
Mina : People can find and contact us through our different social media, including Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Twitter… Additionally, we have a telephone line that is available from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM every day.
Although we may not respond immediatly, since we have a lot of responsabilities as volunteers, we are still accessible. Moreover, we have a website and an e-mail address through which people can reach out to us. Our website scheduled for revision at the beginning of 2023.
Our office is still located in Grenoble, at 1, Victor Lastella street, even if we have recently moved to a more spacious, bright and comfortable workspace.
Callie : How to take part in the effort ?
Mina : You can become a volunteer, of course, but if you unable to, you also have the option of becoming a Builder, this means contributing financially to the association by donating whatever you can. If you can’t commit as a regular volunteer, you can still support us on specific occasions during events created by our new Events Department led by Priscilla. This allows you to intervene only on certain events, such as a show. Or you can assist with smaller tasks as well, sharing your expertise or knowledge for articles or future podcasts, providing us useful contacts and more.
Or, if you want to be a volunteer, you can join us and be actively involved on a regular basis, alternatively you can become a « flying » volunteer and contribute when your schedule and your obligations allow it.
These days, we are searching for adapted equipment for our humanitarian project in Togo : manual wheelchairs, white sticks, etc. Being involved also means contributing by donating equipments and assisting with its transportation from one location to another.
More broadly, donations of equipments can be made to the association itself, such as computer equipment. Also, you are welcome to come and meet us, engage in discussion, inquire about our actions or learn more about disability in general.
Together, we build projects and we value every idea and welcome any assistance.
Callie : Something to add ?
Mina : I hope that Voyageons avec Mina will see landscapes, people, and most importantly, smiles ; that the association will bring a sense of well-being in the future. That’s what we want to convey.