Nov 18, 2007

Heat at Warm Hearth

Dear friends,

I realized recently that I begin most reflections on Warm Hearth by orienting myself with the season. There is a rhythm to the year that must bring some solace, to which I almost *must* connect myself before writing about our group home. And today as I began my work, I did the same thing. I looked at the weather in Yerevan, Armenia and it is 37 degrees Fahrenheit. It is getting cold during the night...and I am worried because we do not have heat in our house right now.

When we opened the home, Bridget and I bought two large gas furnaces from Iran. They heat the home well and it is quite comfortable even in the throes of winter. But due to a new law, we are not allowed to use those heaters any longer & must install central heat. We are on our way to making this happen & have been shuffling through the laws, boiler estimates, gas valves & switches and exchange rates. Many of you have helped with this, have offered expertise & insight, for which I am grateful. And like I said, we are moving as quickly as possible and will hopefully begin installation next week.

But in the mean time, our residents are still cold. And when I pull the blanket over me at night I think about them, and how many blankets they probably have atop their bodies...and how it probably still is cold.

And from there I think of how, no matter how much you love someone you cannot always protect them as you would want to. But we keep trying -- and that is all we can do. I cannot say how many times I have come to this in the "life" of Warm Hearth...but it seems a rock-bottom truth. I keep arriving here, in roundabout ways. And it makes me think of Rilke's words from "The Visionary," a few of which I will share....

How little are the things with which we wrestle. What with us wrestles, how much greater is!

If only we would let ourselves be conquered as things are overcome by a great storm, we would expand in space and need no names.

When we victorious are, it is over the small things, and though we won, it leaves us feeling small.


The secret of his growing lies in this: by being totally defeated and disarmed by even greater forces and their cause.

I hope that we keep growing -- even if it means these moments of what feels like defeat. That is what I hope. And that each of you is well. And warm.

With Gratitude,

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

Oct 23, 2007

Gratitude & Growth

Thank you to all of you who have given to our home.

Thank you for your kindness towards Warm Hearth's residents.

Your donation makes it possible to provide a life for our residents outside the psychiatric institutions in Armenia.

Your support is a vital part of our operation and is also sustenance to our hearts, as we know, through your gift, that we are not alone in this endeavor.

If you are interested, our Annual Report is attached. This chronicles our growth, the healing of our residents and our story from beginning to present day.

Thank you again for your support.


Natalie Bryant Rizzieri Executive Director & Founder

Sep 5, 2007

The Words We Use

Often projects are placed in categories, however arbitrary they might be. Though I lean toward focusing on Warm Hearth as a home as opposed to a project of any sort, there are times when we must be identified by our focus and values.

So, more than any other category, I consider Warm Hearth to be a human rights project. We care about the health of our residents, yes. And we do advocate on their behalf. But mostly we care about ensuring that they have the rights any human being should have. They have the right to loving care, to shelter, to healthful food, to peace, to community, to equality in society and to dignity, to name a few.

When I consider Warm Hearth as a human rights project I am implicitly saying that our residents deserve to receive human rights irregardless of whether they have a disability or not. Their disabilities are impediments to realizing their rights.

Our residents are not in need of “charity” in the sense that it is usually used today, with connotations of helplessness and a hierarchy of abled versus disabled, us versus them. They are, and always will be fully human and should not be considered “misfortunates”. In the same way, we should not consider ourselves their rescuers. Inherent in this approach is a kind of subtle condescension that I would like to avoid.

Rather, our residents have the same rights as any one else and the distinction is just that they might need assistance in realizing those rights and obtaining equal treatment in society.

Within this framework, our residents do not so much need support as access to that which they are already entitled. They do not need charity. They need equality. This might seem like splitting hairs, but I believe it is a posture that offers more dignity to our residents and clarity to the issue of disabilities and society. Sometimes changing words and frameworks does alter our perspectives, over time.

In light of this, I will end with a definition of disability that Warm Hearth uses. This definition exhibits, if considered carefully, the small distinctions that move us away from harmful assumptions about people with disabilities.

Our definition of disability:

“Limitations in carrying out activities of daily living and to participating in the social, economic, political and cultural life of the community.

Such limitations may arise from:

- a physical, sensory, intellectual, emotional or other personal condition such as a long-term health problem;

- societal stereotypes about such human conditions,

- ways of organizing social, economic, and built environments that, in their effects, exclude or impede the participation people with such conditions.

(taken from The Roeher Institute, Toronto, 2001)

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