Jul 11, 2008

Reaching Further, Higher, Wider

Dearest friends & supporters -

As I alluded to in my last letter, we at Warm Hearth are stretching our limbs, trying to reach further and higher and wider to include more residents and to offer always better care to those we already have in our home and in our care. As of three days ago, July 1, this means that we began operating under our new foundation "Jermik Ankyun (Warm Hearth) Foundation" in the Republic of Armenia as opposed to under the umbrella of another nonprofit, Mission Armenia. Mission Armenia has been vital to our beginning and we are quick to say that we would not have been able to do this without them. But there comes a time, and the time has come, to step out on our own...recognize what makes us unique and go confidently in that direction. That is what I hope and believe that this transition means for us. Please keep our directors there in your hearts, prayers and thoughts as they take risks - both personal and organizational - on behalf of those whom we all hold dear.

In the midst of this and as a result of my recent trip with Bridget over the seas and back in Armenia, we are also renovating/finishing our third floor. We plan to new residents, each of whom either is already living in the psychiatric institutions or is destined for them. We hope to welcome them by the autumn. After 2 1/2 years of being open, we feel like we are at a place where we can welcome new residents into our home.... The ground is sure enough beneath our feet. Thank you for being patient with us, and for trusting our timing. Because some of you have asked, the initial renovation project (which doesn't include heating and plumbing) is currently estimated to cost $29,600. We have already raised $25,000 of that amount and are hoping to send the rest soon so that we can get the roof raised, as they say, before winter sets in.

We have enjoyed the summer influx of visitors and volunteers as well. Our residents and staff have been able to participate in activities and trainings. People have come and visited from far and wide. And as you know from walking with us for the last 2 1/2 years, this always is a gift to us. Know that you also are always welcome to come, to stay awhile in our home, to give what you have to give - whatever that might be, and to receive and appreciate all that Warm Hearth offers, in all its humanness, commonness, and dailyness. But this is where beauty and mercy are most often found.

May you know and find that same mercy this day, wherever you are.

With much gratitude and love, Natalie


**In order to raise money for our renovation project, we are selling packets of greeting cards with paintings by our residents. They are $15 each and if you are interested, please let me know by phone or email. (My phone number is listed below.)

**A desktop computer and monitor for our new foundation (no more than 3 years old and in working condition).

** Used/old cell phones which can be mailed to the post office box below (Warm Hearth receives monetary compensation for these).

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

Tel. (480) 921-1181 Armenian Tel. (374) (10) 39-81-50 Address: P.O. Box 1037; Tempe, AZ 85280

May 27, 2008


Here are some recent photos from the trip to Warm Hearth.

May 27, 2008

Until We Were Tired

Dear friends & family,

It has been too long since I last wrote. I know this mostly because I am back in Arizona and have yet to catch you up on the happenings at Warm Hearth. Bridget joined me for a whirlwind few days but we were able to get a lot accomplished and it was a gift to have her company. Our days were brimming with conversations with residents, staff, volunteers, supporters...

We did not bring Anna or Sassoon home from the clinic. This was a hard decision to make and given that the stakes are so high for these two, I cannot say it was a "good" decision, but it was the best one we could make. We did, however, spend some time trying to come up with a long-term solution for them which would entail opening a new home (or more than one new home) for residents with different needs. The model would distinguish between levels of functioning & behavior problems and place residents with these certain criteria in mind. This plan and model that our staff is interested in creating was born out of our experiences with Warm Hearth. And so it is particular to our resources and needs in Armenia. It belongs to Armenia. It belongs to our staff. That is a beautiful thing to me. So, we might be diving into new plans and homes over the next couple years....so that we can provide long-term care for our Anna & Sassoon & others like them....

We had rich time with the residents and staff. We heard about the residents' dreams & vocational goals & were even able to establish an individualized vocational plan for each of them. In conversing about this we learned that Alina, our artist, whom we expected to say that she wanted to paint or draw, said: "For work, I want to help people. If a person feels bad, this is who I will help." We learned that Davit wants to be the director of a kindergarten and that Roman wants to become a photographer. We are excited to work with each resident to create a more meaningful life for himself/herself...along the lines of the passions and skills they already have. Our staff and our residents have security and safety and they have their feet underneath them, pretty solidly now, so it is a time to walk (sometimes it feels like we are running) and grow and expand our home & the lives of our residents.

Gayane's 28th birthday coincided with our trip so we had a special celebration with her. All of the staff were there. We had cake and juice and candles and silly spray! We danced and toasted and laughed. Gayane opened gifts and received all the visitors with such gratitude. Near the end of the party, and near the end of the toasts, she became so overwhelmed with it all that she became tearful. Slightly embarrassed, I think I relieved her embarrassment a bit by saying, "O Gayane, you're just like me." Everyone chuckled and she smiled. Because it is known that tears pretty freely flow from my eyes. She was crying tears of joy and gratitude. Even in joy, there can be something bittersweet, and she probably felt that, too, as did I...and probably Bridget, and perhaps our staff. That we could all come together and give her this day, hold it out to her, and partake of it ourselves...was a beautiful thing. Shortly after, Roman turned on the music and we danced until we were tired. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thank you for all you do to make days like this one possible. I wish many of you could have been there to see this with your own eyes, to see this long-held dream in flesh & blood. I'll try to send photographs soon... And in the meantime, continue to keep us in your thoughts & prayers. Hold us all close. There is more to be done. And we don't want to go at it alone.

With love & gratitude, Natalie (for us all)

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