May 23, 2008

Wide & Narrow

Written on May 6, 2008

Dear friends & family,

I have been in Armenia for three days now...and it feels like much longer as the days have been full & long. But good. Very good. The sun is setting and the sky is cloud-filled and the wind is blowing harder than perhaps I have ever heard it blow. It is howling and whipping around the building and things are flying off the balconies above me. The sky is full of dust, which has something to do with the beautiful sunset, I think.

I have seen many people whom I love. And I have already seen the residents three days in a row. The first thing I did was go to the home, after changing some money to take the bus out to 3rd Village. I wrote to my family & husband very quickly the first night, telling them that it was pure joy. That day. And when this journey has so often been riddled with hard decisions and sadness, that stands out to me. The residents and I laughed and they showed me all that they have done and learned in the last year. Davit would not let go of my hand and kept saying, "Natalie jan (dear), tsavd tanem (I take your pain)." He did not really mean it literally and now as I reach for the words to explain the meaning, it is harder than I thought. But it meant something like - "Oh, there is pain in this joy. And I take it. I take yours. And I'm so glad you are here." I suppose that is the way it is with proverbs and sayings. They take on a life of their own.

Today was quite full of meetings. Our staff shared their concerns. I shared my gratitude with them. And then I was able to listen while they discussed the individual care plans for each resident -- discussing the last month's progress, anecdotal and loving stories...and the ways that they hope the residents will continue to grow. It was really a beautiful thing to hear their hearts for the residents, to see the care they put into this work, and to hear the stories of the residents. One resident has been working toward not interrupting others. Another toward having more gratitude. It made me think of family life and how we are shaped with love. I hope that is what Warm Hearth is for them. I think that it is.

We also are moving toward some organizational changes and hope that we will soon have a foundation or NGO in Armenia dedicated solely to Warm Hearth. Today I met with the founding board members of what we hope will soon be a legal entity. Each of the board members has given to Warm Hearth in many ways, most of them since the very beginning. I asked each of them to share what Warm Hearth meant to them, how they had contributed to the home...and then I just sat back and was able to listen to the amazing ways that our resident's lives and needs have shaped them. And as I shared with them, in turn, I thought about the same - how much I have been shaped and changed by this crazy-beautiful thing called Warm Hearth.

So, things are good on many fronts, here in Armenia. Bridget will arrive this weekend and together we will begin to face the future and possibilities for our two dear residents who are *still* in the psychiatric clinic. That will be the part of this trip that is the most trying, of course. It will be hard to face heir questions if we ourselves do not have answers. I have some small hope that perhaps we can bring Sassoon home...with a one-on-one caregiver. That is my hope. With Anna, I do not know.

*I do not know.* We have said that so many times along the way. The journey has both been long & short. The road has been wide & narrow. It continues to be the same. And we will continue to walk it. Thank you for walking with us, as always. I still mean that just as much as I did in the beginning. You are one of my greatest solaces. And your hope is my hope.

With Gratitude & Love, Natalie

Apr 29, 2008

Spring Newsletter & Photos

Dear Friends,

I've attached the most recent newsletter for your perusal. Thanks to Jessica & Berj for helping with the mailing. It is always a joy to work with others who care about Warm Hearth.

I also have some recent pictures of our residents. I received these recently from our Program Manager and was struck by how much love is behind the eye of the camera, capturing the spirit of each of the residents. I hope you will see the same as you view them. They are a celebration of the kindness and warmth that has become Warm Hearth. View the photos at http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0BYs2TJo5YsXJg

I leave for Armenia in one week & look forward to being with the residents & staff. Thank you all of you who make each part of this endeavor possible.

I hear that the residents saved their money and purchased a video camera for the house, which they had long wanted. So, I'm sure we'll have some laughs with the camera while I'm there.

Keep us close to your hearts as we (Bridget & I) seek, yet again, to find a viable and long-term *good* solution for two residents who are still in the psychiatric clinic.

Blessings to each of you & with gratitude, Natalie


Attachments:
Mar 26, 2008

Small Chances

Warm Hearth Residents
Warm Hearth Residents

The days pass quickly and before too many more pass by, I wanted to share about what has been happening at Warm Hearth. Bridget (our Associate Director) and I will soon return to Armenia for most of May. We are returning to see the residents and staff after missing them so. We also are returning to look hard (yet again) for ways to help the two of our residents who remain in psychiatric clinics…

These two residents, as many of you know, have been in the clinic since last April and despite our efforts, we have yet to find a better alternative for them. We are doing everything we can to make sure that they are not transferred to Vardenis Tun-Internad or the other large institutions.

There is a small chance that we will be able to try to bring one of them home in the next month. That is my hope. This particular resident was able to live in Warm Hearth for ten months in relative peace and safety until one of our staff members (with whom he was very close) left. So, we are doing our best to establish a regime and a “care-plan” that will give him what he needs to stay home and safely. Thank you to those of you who have helped with this. I have received so much support and expertise in regard to this resident. I couldn’t do it alone.

In the meantime, the other six residents have had their own joys and sorrows. They have enjoyed the vocational and life-skills lessons and are showing more and more of an interest in caring for themselves, their friends and their home. Our staff has commented many times recently about the most beautiful changes they see in the lives of the residents. I receive small glimpses of this when I call and hear the strength in their voices, the laughter in the background, the stories of their trips and classes and celebrations.

After a lifetime of neglect combined with their disabilities, many of our residents have struggled, recently, to maintain their physical health. The numerous trips to hospitals this last year has surprised me, but thankfully each of them has been treated and is either cured or continually being treated with the best help we are able to find within Armenia. It is a challenge, but so many people have come around us. And have helped us to give our residents the best that we have. I am grateful for that. As are the residents.

Many of you may have heard about the political unrest in Armenia following the most recent election, which some of the public deemed fraudulent. If you are interested in following this story, there is an online independent journal called ArmeniaNow.com, which is both reputable and thorough. Thankfully, at least on the outside, the country seems calmer and our residents are safe and happy in the “third village” which lies at least 20 minutes from the center of the capital. Thank you for your care and concern about them.

We remain blessed beyond measure by the love that each of you shares with us. Mother Teresa once said that “love has no other message but its own” and I sense that in the gifts and thoughts and help that you give to us, each in your own way. I sense that in the way that your gifts come from far and wide, and in so many different forms from so many different kinds of people. I hope that we, at Warm Hearth, will also continue to walk in the way of love, giving no other message than love itself to each of you, to our residents, our staff and the world close around us.

**I've attached a photograph of this past New Year's celebration. These are our residents singing and performing songs and poems for their visitors.

 
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