Jan 24, 2020

And a New Year Dawns

Dear friends, 

December 31st was the first time I have celebrated New Year (Nor Dari) with the residents of Warm Hearth in all of these years.  And what a sweet night it was--to be held with love in the home of the people I have long loved, to be welcomed into their vibrant celebration, and to have my mother, son and friend in tow to bear witness to the joy and the dancing and the mountains of food and the way that they danced around the gifts in unison after Grandpa Winter came and delivered gifts.  

At Thanksgiving this past year, I heard my grandparents say as they looked around at their daughter and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Well, dear, we are responsible for all of this.  And I chuckled and marveled at how that must feel -- to look around and see the beauty and foibles and tensions and love that is connected to one decision to try to love someone for better or worse and to allow that love, imperfect though it may be, to bear fruit.  

Last night, I felt that in some small way.  But I wanted to turn to each of you and all of our staff and say, Well, dears, we are responsible for all of this.  We are responsible for bringing people into Warm Hearth when we didn't yet know what that would mean.  I looked around and saw with striking clarity, despite the tears in my eyes, what it has meant to not turn away, what it has meant to bring together the beauty and foibles and tensions and love into that is connected to a myriad of decisions to try to love quite a few people now for better or worse.  It has born fruit.  It is bearing fruit.  

I looked around and saw evidence of you there -- the Christmas tree lit with sparkling lights that one of you purchased in the corner, the resident some of you wanted to see come back home when it didn't make sense to anyone else, the piano they were gathered around singing that you purchased so that they could have music as a daily part of their lives, the quilts upon their beds, the clothing on their backs, the food on their table.  I saw evidence of your love and commitment to this idea that they deserved to have a Christmas & New Year celebration in their own home, with love beyond measure behind and around them.  And they do.  I believe they do.  

Before we sat down to eat, a few of the residents pulled me aside and said, Natalie, did you know that we are getting a third home for more people?  A third Warm Hearth?  And I nodded and then just went along with it -- with something that is now their movement and said, How wonderful.  How beautiful.  How astonishing.  

As we started eating every possible Armenian delicacy and traditional dish, the residents gave toasts one after the other, wishing us joy and peace and health and happiness and peace.  I should spread that out to some of you, because we received love in spades to last us the whole year through.  But Srpuhi, one of the beloved staff members, stood up last and she said, through tears, May next year more people have a table to sit around just like this.  I raised my glass high as I could to clink with hers, and thought of the people waiting for the third home, waiting for gifts and dancing and mountains of food, but most of all waiting for love.  May it be theirs in 2020!  May it also be yours.  

With love and gratitude,

Natalie

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Oct 24, 2019

Reunion

Janna
Janna

Dear friends,

Janna, one of our Arinj residents, is deaf and we are learning each day what she needs and how we can love her.  Thanks to volunteer and speech pathologist, Marinda Kaiser, we now have a strong sense of what is needed (sign language classes for staff and residents, weekly community visits to a center for deaf support and speech therapy to strengthen her communication skills).  

While we are still trying to pull together funds for these new programs, we have been able to provide her with a few visits to the “Special Education Complex for Children with Disorders in Hearing”.   At the first visit, she was immediately surrounded by about fifteen people.  Among this small crowd were a few teachers and students from her past.  They held and hugged Janna while she cried.  Tears fell onto the cheeks of the teachers and volunteers there at this sweet reunion.  We are excited to see how she is changed by being able to regularly communicate with others.

We have the opportunity and gift to love and be loved by our residents.  But in moments like this, we blessedly realize that there are sometimes others who loved our residents long before us.  And sometimes our role is just to provide a way for these connections to grow and depend and thrive.  We are here to facilitate a life that makes sense for our residents, whatever that may look like.  But what an honor to listen hard to both the spoken and unspoken needs of our residents and find a way to meet those needs whenever possible, or to find the people who can.  We cannot be all things to our residents and we are so grateful today for the kind people who encircle them and love them so well, including so many of you.  

To hear more, view our newsletter!    

Sincerely Yours,
Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri
Founder & Executive Director

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Sep 4, 2019

Bound Together

Dear friends,

This summer has been full (and hot!) for our residents and staff. The residents from our Arinj home who typically attend a vocational college during the school year have had a break and have enjoyed some long, lazy days. And our residents at both homes have welcomed visitors and friends into their homes — experiencing the way that summer sometimes brims over with sweetness.

In July, a group of professionals through Inclusion Collective (pictured front and back), visited Armenia for three weeks to work with our homes especially around the areas of increased independence for our residents, where it is desired and self advocacy. The team showed so much compassion and respect for our homes through their labors and preparation before going to Armenia. They read our residents’ files, asked questions, conducted fundraisers, learned about Armenia and brainstormed with our team about how they could be most effective. And their compassionate labors paid off. Their time in Armenia was fruitful, full of laughter and love. They also hosted a day-long Disability Rights conference in Yerevan!

After they left, our Armenian Executive Director, Alya, told me that they had learned so many things from the team and that they had a paradigm shift around the residents’ independence and their ability to dive more deeply into community life. It was a summer highlight for the residents to go shopping at the market with the Inclusion Collective volunteers and then to help them make and share a feast! There is something about sitting around a table, sharing food and stories, drink and song, that will bind people together. We are bound now to this incredible team of volunteers and they are bound to our residents. 

Sincerely yours,

Natalie

P.S. The photographs from the summer and the remainder of the newsletter is attached below.  

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