By Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri - Founder & Executive Director
Thanks for your care and concern for our residents and forever homes through one of the most difficult times. To read the opening letter of our report, scroll down. For our full report about 2020 that is chock-a-block full of stories and pictures, go here.
In springtime of 2020, we watched as Covid-19 ravaged so many lives and altered the landscape of the world, including the micro-worlds of our three forever homes. Then in autumn, we grieved as a decades’ old conflict descended into a war that devastated Armenia. It is hard to put into words what it feels like to wonder if our residents, homes and this nation will survive. Even since the war ended, Armenians I know are scheming about how they can get their families out of the country if it comes to that. There is a constant sense of threat. There have been many sleepless nights wondering how we can keep our people safe.
On one call with Alya, our Executive Director in Armenia, I asked her if she had an escape plan for her family. She said, without hesitating, that she could not leave the residents behind. I was sick to my stomach with grief for Alya, her family and daughters, our residents and all those in Armenia. I didn’t want her to have to make such a terrible calculation. I still don’t. I spend countless hours trying to figure out how she can leave if she wants to. And I will continue to do so.
And, at the same time, there is deep consolation in her love for the residents. They do have family. They have her and other staff members who love them just as fiercely.
I think back to the beginning of Warm Hearth/Jermik Ankyun--to the years in which I was trying (and failing, or so I thought) to convince the staff of our residents’ immeasurable value. During those years I asked myself time and again: Why can’t I just settle for most of them to be safe and not institutionalized? Why do I care so much that they are loved? But I did. I couldn’t settle.
On a dark October night during a six-week war, I knew with deep certainty that my dreams had been fulfilled. The wearisome work had been worth it. The residents are loved. They are worth dying for. And despite the war refugees, the uncertainty of tomorrow, and all the violence that struck terror into all of our hearts, this truth remains a beacon of light.
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