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...
Apr 16, 2009

Back Home In Armenia - March 28th, 2009

Dear friends,

As I expected, it is the cusp of spring here in Armenia. Rain is falling gently outside. There is occasional thunder. And I'm on my way back to my room after a full day at Warm Hearth. How do I even begin?

Well, as you know, we have six new residents, who welcomed me like they had always known me, who are at peace, it seems, and living well with the others. I was shown every nook and cranny of our renovated 3rd floor....which is homey and warm and freshly painted. The garden ground was recently plowed and the trees there will soon break. Agappy, a new resident, was especially proud of the garden.

Oh, there is too much to tell.

All of our residents had displayed the best of their artwork and handicrafts around the house and I spent hours looking through sketchbooks, and fingering ceramics, and seeing what they have creatively done with the packing-styrofoam. The two work-rooms look like small art halls and the time and love spent in those rooms is evident.

I listened as the residents said a prayer before their meal. I smelled fresh khachapoori (an Armenian cheese pastry) and watched a community-assistant pull it out of the oven and serve it to the residents. I took all the shy smiles that Yulia gave me across the room, the chorus of "eat, eat" from each of the residents, coffee that Sargis (another new resident) made for me and proceeded to force me to drink it alone so that I could have a moment of peace, he said. :)

We ate together and laughed together. And had an afternoon dance-party in the living room after each resident had sung as many songs as they could conjure up, and recited as many poems as possible... You should have seen Davit dance, our newest resident who came to live with us off the street after his mother recently died. He would just jump up and down in one place, clapping his hands, beaming, and saying “opa” in a sing-songy voice Precious.

In the afternoon, there is a rest hour and each resident goes to his or her room. I took the opportunity to lay down upstairs as well to ward off some of the jet lag. As I fell asleep, I could hear the residents in the next room singing a soft lullaby (I learned later that they had sung it for me). I laid in such a warm bed, with a quilt made by one of you, surrounded, as it were, by you there and those I love here...and rested in the beauty of what we have done together.

I wish you could have been there. My hands are sticky from so much holding. Yours would be, too.

With love and gratitude, Natalie (for us all)

Mar 11, 2009

Glimpses of Spring

Dear friends,

The last few days have been full of good news, glimpses of spring. As you have been so kind to share in our winters, and in times of difficulty, so shall you share in the joys.

I wandered along at the arboretum this morning, in Superior, Arizona….and all the trees are about to break into bloom. They’re pushing their fists, full of blossoms, to the sky. And it is incredible to watch something that has almost burst into the world, but hasn’t quite. I highly recommend wandering around during these spring days and watching the world unleash it’s fury of color on us.

As I walked along, I thought about all the ways we are brought to life again. I thought about how I have been brought to life by news from Warm Hearth this week.

Let me share. We have a new resident, whom our staff hope to bring home today. He is twenty-two years old and has lived on the streets with his mother for much of his life. His mother died last week and as Alya, our director said, “Now he is alone in the world.” Well, not quite. Because we can take him. We can bring him home. We cannot undo all the suffering but we can add some joy to his young life.

That is springtime.

A glimpse of how what we give multiplies and is multiplied came yesterday…. Last year, a donor gave a few thousand dollars for our residents to receive comprehensive dental care. They went to a clinic in Yerevan and along the way, our residents carved their place into the hearts of the dental care staff. The staff have brought gifts and food over to the home many times. They have come for Christmas celebrations.

They also offered free care for our residents in the future. Free. To watch our Warm Hearth staff and residents make their own connections in the community and then to see the community respond, this is also springtime.

Thank you for watching as the cycle of life circles around and around within our home and our residents’ lives. I hope for springtime for each of you.

With all my heart, Natalie

*I've attached a most-recent photo of our residents and many friends of Warm Hearth.

“If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you.”

Feb 19, 2009

Changing Places - A Reflection

Dear friends,

I’m getting ready for another trip to Armenia in late March. And looking forward to meeting our new group of residents and seeing those I have long loved. I’m also looking forward to sharing your gifts and spirit and stories… I have a suitcase full of beautiful clothes for the residents, nursing journals for the psychiatric hospital, a hand-knit blanket, sheets and towels. I think it is part of my work to connect our residents back to you, as you are connected to them, to work on completing the circle.

Jean Vanier started group homes around the world for people with developmental disabilities, and has a book entitled “Becoming Human” that articulates the heart of Warm Hearth. What I most admire about him is his posture. He doesn’t see himself as the healer or the strong one. He says: “the one who is healed and the one who is healing constantly change place.” Again, we are encircled and part of a circle when we give and receive, when we work and rest. And I have to say that nothing is more true in this work, which is really just life, which brings us down to earth and toward heaven all in one breath, if you will.

What I mean by this work we are engaged in really being just *life* is expressed again by Vanier:

The belief in the inner beauty of each and every human being is at the heart of {Warm Hearth}, at the heart of all true education and at the heart of being human. As soon as we start selecting people and judging people instead of welcoming them as they are – with their sometimes human beauty, as well as their more frequent visible weaknesses – we are reducing life, not fostering it. When we reveal to people our belief in them, their hidden beauty rises to the surface where it may be more clearly seen by all.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. I know that those of you who have followed and nurtured and grown this work/life have already experienced this reality. I know that you sense the threads that tie you to our residents and that you see their beauty and their strength and courage. I guess what I really wanted to share is that they also sense the threads that tie them to you…they know they are loved. They take so much joy in the fact that you know their names. Somehow this small fact makes a large difference.

So, thank you. And bless you. May we constantly change places between healer and healed. May we remain in the circle.

Sincerely & With Gratitude, Natalie

 
   

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