Friends of Warm Hearth, Inc.

Friends of Warm Hearth provides a holistic community-based group home that cares for the bodies, minds and souls of Armenian orphans with disabilities. We Value - Our residents' social, physical, mental, spiritual and vocational development - Community integration that honors culture & tradition - Dignity, respect, choice, fulfillment, privacy and independence - Individualized care that empowers our residents to live as independently and confidently as possible, while consistently contributing to their community Motivation - To prevent orphaned adults with mental illness or disabilities from being forced to spend the remainder of their lives in the psychiatric institutions of A...
Nov 3, 2016

Tribute to our Residents

Dear friends,

As you all know, we celebrated our ten-year anniversary in August. What a joy it has been to witness the unfolding of this labor of love, to behold such bravery in our staff and community, to see our residents grow and change and heal and laugh. While I could not be present for the celebration, I sent this tribute to our residents:

I have had the great pleasure and honor of knowing and loving the residents of Warm Hearth for a long time. I think it is safe to say that we have grown up together.

Roman, Gayane, Alina, Susanna, Yulia, Davit, Sassoon, Anna, Hasmik, Anahit, Armine, Agappy, Davo, and Arsen, you’re a part of my heart and my love for you runs so deep. Some of you became family to me over 12 years ago, when I met you in Kapan. Others of you became family to me when you first came to live in your forever home at Jermik Ankyun.

However you became family to me, it is irrevocable. And my life is so much richer and better and full of love because of you.

You show me what it means to live with courage and hope, with strength and vulnerability. I celebrate ten years of Jermik Ankyun being open because of you – because you have a home, and a safe place and love in your life. Today is your celebration. It’s a celebration of your home, the staff, all of the people who believe in you, all the people here today. And I know that each person here today will be blessed by each of you -- by what you have to give the world, by the sweetness and the beauty of your presence.

Thank you to all of you for celebrating with us – for marking these ten amazing years. And these fourteen amazing individuals.

Sincerely Yours,

Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri
Founder & Executive Director

Aug 9, 2016

Summer's Bounty

Dear friends,

As summer has come and nearly gone, we have seen the fruit of many long labors swell, grow and sweeten.  One thing that has come to pass this summer is that Anna came home again. She is one of our residents who has been in and out of institutions for most of her life. After last year’s staff trainings and welcoming new staff members, we felt ready to try to support her again at home. Our staff are taking one day at a time. But for now, Anna is once again in her own home, with friends and beauty around her, and with people who love her.

It feels significant that her homecoming has occurred the same year as our ten-year celebration. So often we want change to happen quickly and with ease. In reality, the things that mean the most can take years and years. We have to all change from the inside out and so does the world around us.

Summer in Armenia is always a time of abundance in terms of welcoming visitors and volunteers, donors and supporters. We have welcomed so many people this summer who have long loved the residents from afar, who have worked quietly on their behalf from the United States, and who finally got to be with them in person. What a joy it is to extend the hospitality of Warm Hearth to the people who make it possible.

Last, but not least, the ten-year anniversary celebration took place last week in Yerevan. At this celebration, we cheered and reflected on what Warm Hearth has become. We remembered why we exist in the first place. We looked forward and back with joy and hope. One of our board members, Lee Ann Williams, was present and celebrating in Armenia. The rest of us were there in spirit.

Sincerely Yours,
Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri

(To read our entire summer newsletter, see the attachment below.) 


Attachments:
Jun 6, 2016

How Warm Hearth Has Changed One Woman's Life

Then and Now: How Warm Hearth Has Changed the Course of One Woman's Life

Since her birth in 1980, Gayane has had no family to call her own. While still an infant, her parents abandoned her at an orphanage in the city of Avovyan, Armenia. In this harsh way, her life journey began and wound its way through one orphanage to another as she was transferred time and again. Such profound insecurity at such a vulnerable time caused Gayane deep suffering.

Gayane lived at an orphanage in Kapan for eight additional years after turning 18, thanks to the director’s compassion. But at the age of 26, there was no longer space or resources to care for Gayane and seven of her friends. The orphanage director’s only option was to send them to a large psychiatric institution for the rest of their lives. It was to circumvent this fate that Warm Hearth was opened, and at the age of 26, Gayane moved for the final time to Warm Hearth.

This last move, like previous ones, was difficult. It was challenging to adjust to a new environment, even though this time some of her friends from the Kapan orphanage were with her. In the beginning, she cried often and wished she could go back to the orphanage in Kapan. But as time unfolded, Gayane became accustomed to life at Warm Hearth, taking on responsibilities and trusting those who care for her.

Today, Gayane expects to live at her beloved Warm Hearth until the end of her life, not moving ever again.

This stability is one of the greatest gifts Gayane receives from Warm Hearth. She knows she will never again experience the kind of suffering that came from transferring from one institution to another.

Another gift Gayane treasures is that of friendship, made especially poignant due to the loss of community she once suffered. She values relationships and has had the opportunity at Warm Hearth to become friends with neighbors and new residents in the home.

Gayane will say that during the last ten years, almost all of her dreams have come true. One unforgettable day that stands out to her is the day she bought gold earrings for herself with her own money. That simple but profound act fulfilled a long-held childhood dream.

Gayane also grew up longing to prepare meals by herself. As in many cultures, food and meals are of great value in Armenia, integral to the culture, to celebrations, to personhood. With the help of a caregiver, today Gayane is able to prepare mashed potatoes, dolma and other dishes for her friends. And we expect that one day, she will do so without assistance.

In addition to nurturing Gayane’s dreams, Warm Hearth has also provided opportunities for Gayane that go beyond those dreams. One of the most profound experiences was her participation in a three-year inclusive learning program. “Bridge of Hope,” a local nonprofit in Yerevan, invited our residents to attend Yerevan’s Adolescent Humanitarian College, where Gayane studied carpet weaving. Carpet weaving is now such a part of Gayane’s life that she cannot imagine herself not weaving for even one day. It is her art form, her joy, and a place she finds meaning. Gayane graduated from the college program in 2012 and each year her work becomes more professional.

Today, Gayane attends courses at Pyunic (another local nonprofit) and is expanding her repertoire of handicrafts.

According to Gayane, she has made some remarkable internal changes since living life at Warm Hearth. She reports having greater self-control; while in the past, she struggled with anger and anxiety, now her struggles are fewer and she has the skills to calm herself.

Perhaps most important, given Gayane’s history, is that she feels protected at Warm Hearth – a feeling she never had before in any of the institutions or orphanages. She has confidence that the caregivers and staff at Warm Hearth will help and encourage her along this labyrinth we call life. T

 
   

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