Dear friends, partners, donors, and volunteers -
It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that our relationship with Alya, the founder and former director of our partner organization (Jermik Ankyun Foundation - JAF) has deteriorated beyond imagination. As many of you know, she notified me this summer that she was leaving Warm Hearth for a position in Parliament. We traveled to Armenia in July to hire a new Executive Director. During this trip, the hiring committee chose a candidate and three days after, that candidate began onboarding. Two days later, on July 28, in direct violation of our mutually agreed upon Rules and Regulations, Alya notified me that her husband would be the director and that she had completely disbanded our local board and replaced them with people who would support this move.
I returned immediately to Armenia. We have done everything we can, with a team of incredible Armenians, to try to remedy the situation. And thus far, we have not been successful. Alya and her husband have not agreed to follow the Rules and Regulations and follow the legal steps necessary that would enable our organization to ensure that all donations are devoted to the care and protection of our residents and staff.
Their unwillingness to follow the Rules and Regulations that have been painstakingly drafted and revised for many years has been astonishing and heartbreaking. And I know that many of your hearts will also be broken with this news. At the moment, the only path forward (according to our lawyer and advisors in Armenia) is to withdraw financial support from our local partner organization, JAF, as long as Alya, her husband and her new board have legal control.
I want to reassure those of you who have donated, that based on our investigations and an annual external audit, the last of which was completed in May 2021, we have uncovered only one instance of financial fraud, and this instance was under $100. Based on these and other safeguards, we believe that all donations sent to Friends of Warm Hearth have been applied to our mission up until this time. We want to assure you that our accounts in the US are not accessible to anyone in Armenia. However, we will not be sending further funds to Jermik Ankyun Foundation's Armenia-based account unless Alya and her husband leave and the local Armenian board is changed according to our Rules and Regulations.
There are systems and forces that seek to destroy all that we believe in. This has been the case since day one. There has been a deep betrayal of all that we stood for and against. Grief and anger are just and proper responses to this place of unraveling and unknowing. Mother Theresa says, and I recite every day: What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
I have told our staff and our residents that they are the collective heart of Warm Hearth. They are our North Star, and the reason we exist. That does not change. We must be brave. We must hope that truth will win in the end. We must bear the light in unbearable times. We must bear witness to the unwillingness to follow the Rules and Regulations and the darkness that has surfaced, and not pretend it does not exist. We must hold onto a persistent and stubborn hope that in the end, love wins. And we must pray, with all of our hearts, that our residents will be protected.
I have said many times that I have the honor of knowing the best people the world has to offer. In that group I include many of you, our residents and staff, our FWH board, and my allies and friends here in Armenia. Our allies and friends in Armenia would give a limb to save our residents and we will be counting on them to check in on our residents in this next season when our protection as an organization is put on hold.
Our residents are not alone. They have you. And they have me. And that will always be the case, whatever else happens.
Since the writing of this letter, so many of you have asked what is next? What does this mean for the shape of our organization, for our residents? These are the questions I ask myself each day. And while I wish I had more answers for you, I will tell you this--
We are still in touch with our residents through visitors and friends from outside the organization. And for today, they are healthy and content. That is no small thing. While we remain uncertain what the outcome will be, for now and for the foreseeable future, the Armenian nonprofit (Jermik Ankyun Foundation) is caring for the residents primarily with Armenian government funds.
Indeed, this may be the end of this particular road and journey. That's the truth. And I will promise you this -- if, as I fear, we get to the end of the road and it is in fact the end, then you will be the first to know. I will continue being transparent with you.