Group Homes for Armenian Orphans with Disabilities

Aug 26, 2011

New Hope for Anna & Sassoon ~ Warm Hearth

Dear friends,

As you know, many of you, our attempts to help Anna and Sassoon (two of our residents who have spent more times in clinics/institutions than in Warm Hearth Group Home) have been thwarted time and again. Many of you have given so much in an effort to bring them home.  What has looked like the answer in the past has disappointed.  We've tried to move forward, to bring them home, and time and again our footing has been precarious. And we have slipped and fallen. And they have suffered, still, in the institutions. 

As a last-ditch effort, Alya, our Armenian Director, came to the USA in July to see different group homes, in the hopes that we would learn some skills and be encouraged in regard to caring for residents like Anna and Sassoon with greater behavioral challenges.  The trip was full – and we did learn a lot — all of us.  But by the end, we were not sure if it would end up meaning a homecoming for Anna or Sassoon. 

It seemed like we were at a dead-end.  And I wasn't sure there was any way to even back out of that place and look for another road. 

I reckoned with what it means when there is nothing more to be done — nothing more one can even imagine to do that would relieve the suffering of one's beloveds.  What does grace even mean in those places?  These were the questions I asked.  I still ask them, because they are still unanswered for many people. 

But for Anna and Sassoon, there is more than a glimmer of hope. And it is not hard to see the grace in that.

A couple weeks ago now, I asked Alya to consider bringing Anna and Sassoon home one more time.  It was a question I had to ask -- but with open-hands -- because Warm Hearth has become more and more Armenia's.  And in response, Alya proposed building a garden house in our backyard for Anna and Sassoon, consisting of two bedrooms and a bath.  This garden house would be a place Anna and Sassoon could go when they were struggling to provide space and to protect them and our other residents. 

The board joyfully deliberated and has approved the decision to move forward.  We are in the process of getting zoning approval to build this garden house and we hope to start construction in October so as to be done before the heavy-handedness of Armenian winter.

I was (and still am) incredulous.  It's taken awhile to sink in, to recover from the beautiful shock of being handed hope again. 

All the answers are not in place, nor will they ever be.  We hope this works as a long-term solution for Anna and Sassoon.  We hope this with all our hearts as we (and especially Anna & Sassoon) are turned around from that dead-end place and looking down a new road. 

With gratitude,
Natalie (for us all)

Jun 2, 2011

Surprised by Joy - Summer Newsletter

Dear friends,

I've attached our summer newsletter for you to enjoy.  The following is an excerpt from the newsletter:

To Be of Use 

Our residents have no shortage of gifts, beauty, energy and insights.  We work hard to provide outlets for their gifts, that they might be of use in the world.  They have so much to offer and their lives are enriched through giving and working, as ours are as well.  One outlet we have created is a new online store (site listed on page 2) where our residents’ unique handicrafts are showcased and available for purchase.  In Marge Piercy’s poem, “To Be of Use,” she speaks to the importance of this aspect of Warm Hearth’s mission: 

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. 

But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,

Hopi vases that held corn are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.


Sincerely and with gratitude,

Natalie (for us all)

Apr 6, 2011

A Mountain is Moved

Dear friends -

It is with an incredulous heart that I write to you. 

Our little group home in Armenia, that serves residents who are beloved to us, has received Armenian government funding beginning in 2012.  We…have...received…government…funding…for…our…residents… 

The government commitment to our home is to provide between 52 and 60% of our current operating budget (excluding state-side expenses). 

This is a small miracle. 

And it means so many things. It means that your gifts and work and passion have taken root in a way we dared to hope they would in the mental health system of Armenia.  It means a great leap toward sustainability.  It means a great advance in human rights in Armenia.  It means that some measure of justice has taken root in Armenian society on behalf of people with disabilities.  It means that the government values individuals with disabilities and believes, along with us, that a better life is possible for people with disabilities.  And that they are willing to fight for this, too. 

It means a letting go.  It means a chapter closes and another one opens. 

It means, we hope, some greater possibilities for Anna and Sassoon. 

It means rejoicing.  It means we continue on. 

A few hours after receiving this news, I opened a card from Susan Barnes, someone who loves our residents.  The front of the card says: A mountain is moved by carrying away small stones.  (Chinese Proverb) 

Susan then wrote:

I think…this larger system of injustice in Armenia that has years of history at its root is a giant mountain.  But, my hope and prayer is that each one of us -- who take the residents on trips, who donate money to the home, who sit on the Board, who sell their art, who buy their art, who research the laws, who translate the documents, who provide training, who provide structure and kindness in the home, who do so many little things -- is removing a stone.  We are each removing a stone.  It is good, significant work.  Even if the mountain in front of us is big. 

I don't understand why Anna and Sassoon are still in the clinic, despite all your efforts and the efforts of many.  It is not just.  And there are no easy answers.  But, I do believe that our work is to continue to carry away the stones we can today. 

One day, I don't know when, the mountain will be moved.  In the meantime, I hurt with you, with them, as I can from so far away. 

And I will do what I can to move stones with you and with the international family of stone carriers you've assembled. 

This acquisition of government funding is one great large stone that has been moved – and by the hands of many of you – our family of stone carriers. 

I am grateful for you.  Let's rejoice together, spread out around the world, as we are. 

With honor and joy,


Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri
Founder, Executive Director
Friends of Warm Hearth, Inc.

Tel. (480) 921-1181
Armenian Tel. (374) (10) 39-81-50

Address: PO Box 4784; Sunnyside NY 11104

Providing a Group Home for Orphans with Disabilities in Armenia

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Every action begins with strengthening the spirit. 

- C. P. Estes

Mar 9, 2011

By the Hands of Many

Dear friends,

Our spring newsletter is attached and vailable for your perusal.  We hope you enjoy the news about our residents and the people all over the world who uphold them.  Thank you for being a part of the circle that surrounds them.  By the hands of many, a few are upheld.  We are honored and grateful to work with each of you. 

The following is an excerpt from the newsletter:

On the Darkest Nights: The Ways We Celebrate

Armenians know how to celebrate and our residents are no exception.  On some of the darkest nights of the year, they come together, prepare a feast and open their home to friends.  They make special cakes and fruit platters.  They decorate the home and light up their corner of 3rd Village.    Christmas is celebrated from December 24th through January 6th.  By the end of such lengthy festivities, our residents and staff have the satisfying fatigue of being full-hearted.  We hope that you were just as blessed this past winter.  As if life wasn’t full enough already, our residents also took their handicrafts (many of which were Christmas decorations) to local exhibits (see photo). There they were able to show the community the beauty that is theirs, and the beauty that they have learned to make.  They also celebrated with a few trips into the city!  It is a gift to be able to create light in the midst of dark seasons. Our staff and residents do this well. They are committed to the practice and each year our traditions grow and develop as a true family’s.  As spring is rounding the corner and daylight extends with every passing day, we move toward the outside world and harbor the joys that were cultivated through the winter.  Thank you for your gifts and donations which make such joy possible.

Sincerely Yours,

Natalie (for us all)


Feb 10, 2011

Annual Report 2010

Dear friends and supporters -

Here is an excerpt from our 2010 Annual Report.  To read more and to see the full report, please open the attachment.

A letter from the founder

This year I was present for both Anahit’s and Davit’s birthday celebrations.  Anahit and Davit received gifts  from the staff.  For both occasions, there was a beautiful layered, homemade cake on the table.  And instead of a candle, we had sparklers!

It is a tradition at Warm Hearth that everyone present speaks their wishes for whomever we are celebrating.  I heard both whispers and confident toasts as Anahit and Davit were wished long lives, much love, and for their respective dreams to come true. 

Almost always, the one who is celebrated sheds a few tears.  They are tears of joy, for the most part.  But, does not every joy carry with it a bit of longing that almost feels like sadness?  I wonder if they long for the love of their families so acutely in those moments. 

Do they think of the loneliness they have carried with them most of their lives?  Or, do they think of the friendship that now belongs to them?

At the first birthday celebration after Warm Hearth opened, I remember wondering if that resident might break open from so much joy, from so much wonder.  I wondered: should we not celebrate so vibrantly?  Should we tame the celebrations for their sake?

I do not think a person can be given too much love.  So, I believe the answer is no.  Celebrate vibrantly!  Shower them with blessing.  And one day, they might realize how worthy of celebration they really are.  One day - when their celebrations at Warm Hearth outnumber the previous ones and their stories are re-read to include lifelong love.

    Sincerely Yours,

        Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri


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Project Leader

Warm Hearth Co-Director

Founder/Executive Director
Flagstaff, AZ United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Group Homes for Armenian Orphans with Disabilities