Then and Now: How Warm Hearth Has Changed the Course of One Woman's Life
Since her birth in 1980, Gayane has had no family to call her own. While still an infant, her parents abandoned her at an orphanage in the city of Avovyan, Armenia. In this harsh way, her life journey began and wound its way through one orphanage to another as she was transferred time and again. Such profound insecurity at such a vulnerable time caused Gayane deep suffering.
Gayane lived at an orphanage in Kapan for eight additional years after turning 18, thanks to the director’s compassion. But at the age of 26, there was no longer space or resources to care for Gayane and seven of her friends. The orphanage director’s only option was to send them to a large psychiatric institution for the rest of their lives. It was to circumvent this fate that Warm Hearth was opened, and at the age of 26, Gayane moved for the final time to Warm Hearth.
This last move, like previous ones, was difficult. It was challenging to adjust to a new environment, even though this time some of her friends from the Kapan orphanage were with her. In the beginning, she cried often and wished she could go back to the orphanage in Kapan. But as time unfolded, Gayane became accustomed to life at Warm Hearth, taking on responsibilities and trusting those who care for her.
Today, Gayane expects to live at her beloved Warm Hearth until the end of her life, not moving ever again.
This stability is one of the greatest gifts Gayane receives from Warm Hearth. She knows she will never again experience the kind of suffering that came from transferring from one institution to another.
Another gift Gayane treasures is that of friendship, made especially poignant due to the loss of community she once suffered. She values relationships and has had the opportunity at Warm Hearth to become friends with neighbors and new residents in the home.
Gayane will say that during the last ten years, almost all of her dreams have come true. One unforgettable day that stands out to her is the day she bought gold earrings for herself with her own money. That simple but profound act fulfilled a long-held childhood dream.
Gayane also grew up longing to prepare meals by herself. As in many cultures, food and meals are of great value in Armenia, integral to the culture, to celebrations, to personhood. With the help of a caregiver, today Gayane is able to prepare mashed potatoes, dolma and other dishes for her friends. And we expect that one day, she will do so without assistance.
In addition to nurturing Gayane’s dreams, Warm Hearth has also provided opportunities for Gayane that go beyond those dreams. One of the most profound experiences was her participation in a three-year inclusive learning program. “Bridge of Hope,” a local nonprofit in Yerevan, invited our residents to attend Yerevan’s Adolescent Humanitarian College, where Gayane studied carpet weaving. Carpet weaving is now such a part of Gayane’s life that she cannot imagine herself not weaving for even one day. It is her art form, her joy, and a place she finds meaning. Gayane graduated from the college program in 2012 and each year her work becomes more professional.
Today, Gayane attends courses at Pyunic (another local nonprofit) and is expanding her repertoire of handicrafts.
According to Gayane, she has made some remarkable internal changes since living life at Warm Hearth. She reports having greater self-control; while in the past, she struggled with anger and anxiety, now her struggles are fewer and she has the skills to calm herself.
Perhaps most important, given Gayane’s history, is that she feels protected at Warm Hearth – a feeling she never had before in any of the institutions or orphanages. She has confidence that the caregivers and staff at Warm Hearth will help and encourage her along this labyrinth we call life. T