Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians

by Friends of Warm Hearth, Inc.
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians
Forever Homes for Abandoned Armenians

Dear friends,

2020 has been a bear so far. There’s no way around it. Covid-19 has turned many everyday rituals inside out. The loss associated with that is no small thing. In the midst of so much change, it has been our desire to maintain a sense of joyous shelter and safety for our residents.

Living in a group home is inherently more risky than living in a single family home. Some of our residents have the additional vulnerability of a complicated health history. We have taken their risks to heart and implemented a strict shelter-in-place since mid-March. In order to cut down on exposure, staff members work longer hours and we provide their transportation to and from the homes. No visitors have been allowed to come to the homes. These safety measures have kept all of our residents well, for the time being. But we do have plans in place for how we will proceed when someone becomes ill. At this point, we assume that it is not if, but when.

In the meantime, our staff have gone the extra kilometer to make sure that our residents’ days are full, structured, interesting and engaging. I am so grateful that they are afforded that luxury. There is a lot of cooking, chopping, exercising, planting, blowing up balloons and creating. The residents are crafting brilliant paper suns and pineapples, clay cherries and peaches. They are marking birthdays with ingenuity. Our staff members have been incredible friends and partners in this time, as have each of you. And as always, I am amazed by our residents’ resiliency their willingness and ability to not just make the most of what they have been given but to make something more, to make something beautiful. Thank you for all you do to make something beautiful on their behalf as well. Our homes are a testament to your love.

To see our full newsletter, please click on the link below.  

Sincerely Yours,
N atalie Bryant-Rizzieri
Founder & Executive Director

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Dear friends,

Relationships move at the speed of trust.  Social change moves at the speed of relationships.  (Bailey & Flowers) 

2019 took us by surprise, plain and simple. We were getting our bearings having opened a second home in Arinj the year before. We were plodding faithfully along--hoping to secure some Armenian government funding for that home. We were dreaming up how best to include seven more residents who had been promised a homeafewyearsback. Wewere contemplating expanding the Arinj home to make room for them. But then in one fell swoop, the plans changed.

Alya, our director in Armenia, received a call from the Armenian Ministry of Labor & Social Issues. They promised some funding for our Arinj home but also for a portion of a 3rd home, if we could open it right away and if, in the future, we could cap our homes at eight residents.

Our first response was tentative. Is this what's best for those individuals? What size home do we prefer? Is this in line with our plans to focus on sustainability for our Armenian nonprofit in the next four years? Do the numbers support this path? After considering all these questions, we were met with a resounding yes.

We were thrilled that these individuals who had been impatiently waiting for a home of their own would have one sooner than we had dared to hope.

So, we dove right in. Together, we bought a third home in the quiet and humble village of Geghanist. And from that moment on, our foundationinArmeniatookthelead. They found staff and trained them. They bought local furniture and stocked the house with cups, knives,sheetsandblankets. Theyhungcurtains andassembledfurniture. Theywashedthe windows and dreamed of a beautiful life living alongside our newest residents. And finally, they tucked clean sheets on the new beds, fluffed the pillows and brought these people to their forever home in early 2020.

When we opened back in 2006, we began by building trust between resident and staff, with neighbors and governments. Now that trust sustains relationships that are allowing for this sort of social change to occur at a macro level. The Armenian government did not even know whatagrouphomewaswhenwestarted. And now, they are asking us to open more and helping us sustain them.

Thank you for making room in your heart for this gorgeous whirlwind of change and the wild hope that abandoned individuals with special needs could have a forever home. We could not do this without you.  

Last, if you would like to view our full Annual Report, please click on the link below.  

Sincerely yours,

Natalie Bryant Rizzieri

 

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Dear friends, 

December 31st was the first time I have celebrated New Year (Nor Dari) with the residents of Warm Hearth in all of these years.  And what a sweet night it was--to be held with love in the home of the people I have long loved, to be welcomed into their vibrant celebration, and to have my mother, son and friend in tow to bear witness to the joy and the dancing and the mountains of food and the way that they danced around the gifts in unison after Grandpa Winter came and delivered gifts.  

At Thanksgiving this past year, I heard my grandparents say as they looked around at their daughter and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Well, dear, we are responsible for all of this.  And I chuckled and marveled at how that must feel -- to look around and see the beauty and foibles and tensions and love that is connected to one decision to try to love someone for better or worse and to allow that love, imperfect though it may be, to bear fruit.  

Last night, I felt that in some small way.  But I wanted to turn to each of you and all of our staff and say, Well, dears, we are responsible for all of this.  We are responsible for bringing people into Warm Hearth when we didn't yet know what that would mean.  I looked around and saw with striking clarity, despite the tears in my eyes, what it has meant to not turn away, what it has meant to bring together the beauty and foibles and tensions and love into that is connected to a myriad of decisions to try to love quite a few people now for better or worse.  It has born fruit.  It is bearing fruit.  

I looked around and saw evidence of you there -- the Christmas tree lit with sparkling lights that one of you purchased in the corner, the resident some of you wanted to see come back home when it didn't make sense to anyone else, the piano they were gathered around singing that you purchased so that they could have music as a daily part of their lives, the quilts upon their beds, the clothing on their backs, the food on their table.  I saw evidence of your love and commitment to this idea that they deserved to have a Christmas & New Year celebration in their own home, with love beyond measure behind and around them.  And they do.  I believe they do.  

Before we sat down to eat, a few of the residents pulled me aside and said, Natalie, did you know that we are getting a third home for more people?  A third Warm Hearth?  And I nodded and then just went along with it -- with something that is now their movement and said, How wonderful.  How beautiful.  How astonishing.  

As we started eating every possible Armenian delicacy and traditional dish, the residents gave toasts one after the other, wishing us joy and peace and health and happiness and peace.  I should spread that out to some of you, because we received love in spades to last us the whole year through.  But Srpuhi, one of the beloved staff members, stood up last and she said, through tears, May next year more people have a table to sit around just like this.  I raised my glass high as I could to clink with hers, and thought of the people waiting for the third home, waiting for gifts and dancing and mountains of food, but most of all waiting for love.  May it be theirs in 2020!  May it also be yours.  

With love and gratitude,

Natalie

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Janna
Janna

Dear friends,

Janna, one of our Arinj residents, is deaf and we are learning each day what she needs and how we can love her.  Thanks to volunteer and speech pathologist, Marinda Kaiser, we now have a strong sense of what is needed (sign language classes for staff and residents, weekly community visits to a center for deaf support and speech therapy to strengthen her communication skills).  

While we are still trying to pull together funds for these new programs, we have been able to provide her with a few visits to the “Special Education Complex for Children with Disorders in Hearing”.   At the first visit, she was immediately surrounded by about fifteen people.  Among this small crowd were a few teachers and students from her past.  They held and hugged Janna while she cried.  Tears fell onto the cheeks of the teachers and volunteers there at this sweet reunion.  We are excited to see how she is changed by being able to regularly communicate with others.

We have the opportunity and gift to love and be loved by our residents.  But in moments like this, we blessedly realize that there are sometimes others who loved our residents long before us.  And sometimes our role is just to provide a way for these connections to grow and depend and thrive.  We are here to facilitate a life that makes sense for our residents, whatever that may look like.  But what an honor to listen hard to both the spoken and unspoken needs of our residents and find a way to meet those needs whenever possible, or to find the people who can.  We cannot be all things to our residents and we are so grateful today for the kind people who encircle them and love them so well, including so many of you.  

To hear more, view our newsletter!    

Sincerely Yours,
Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri
Founder & Executive Director

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Dear friends,

This summer has been full (and hot!) for our residents and staff. The residents from our Arinj home who typically attend a vocational college during the school year have had a break and have enjoyed some long, lazy days. And our residents at both homes have welcomed visitors and friends into their homes — experiencing the way that summer sometimes brims over with sweetness.

In July, a group of professionals through Inclusion Collective (pictured front and back), visited Armenia for three weeks to work with our homes especially around the areas of increased independence for our residents, where it is desired and self advocacy. The team showed so much compassion and respect for our homes through their labors and preparation before going to Armenia. They read our residents’ files, asked questions, conducted fundraisers, learned about Armenia and brainstormed with our team about how they could be most effective. And their compassionate labors paid off. Their time in Armenia was fruitful, full of laughter and love. They also hosted a day-long Disability Rights conference in Yerevan!

After they left, our Armenian Executive Director, Alya, told me that they had learned so many things from the team and that they had a paradigm shift around the residents’ independence and their ability to dive more deeply into community life. It was a summer highlight for the residents to go shopping at the market with the Inclusion Collective volunteers and then to help them make and share a feast! There is something about sitting around a table, sharing food and stories, drink and song, that will bind people together. We are bound now to this incredible team of volunteers and they are bound to our residents. 

Sincerely yours,

Natalie

P.S. The photographs from the summer and the remainder of the newsletter is attached below.  

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Organization Information

Friends of Warm Hearth, Inc.

Location: Flagstaff, AZ - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Warm Hearth Co-Director
Founder/Executive Director
Flagstaff, AZ United States

Funded Project!

Thanks to 432 donors like you, a total of $61,676 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving. Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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