Group Homes for Armenian Orphans with Disabilities

by Friends of Warm Hearth, Inc.

Dear friends -

It is with an incredulous heart that I write to you. 

Our little group home in Armenia, that serves residents who are beloved to us, has received Armenian government funding beginning in 2012.  We…have...received…government…funding…for…our…residents… 

The government commitment to our home is to provide between 52 and 60% of our current operating budget (excluding state-side expenses). 

This is a small miracle. 

And it means so many things. It means that your gifts and work and passion have taken root in a way we dared to hope they would in the mental health system of Armenia.  It means a great leap toward sustainability.  It means a great advance in human rights in Armenia.  It means that some measure of justice has taken root in Armenian society on behalf of people with disabilities.  It means that the government values individuals with disabilities and believes, along with us, that a better life is possible for people with disabilities.  And that they are willing to fight for this, too. 

It means a letting go.  It means a chapter closes and another one opens. 

It means, we hope, some greater possibilities for Anna and Sassoon. 

It means rejoicing.  It means we continue on. 

A few hours after receiving this news, I opened a card from Susan Barnes, someone who loves our residents.  The front of the card says: A mountain is moved by carrying away small stones.  (Chinese Proverb) 

Susan then wrote:

I think…this larger system of injustice in Armenia that has years of history at its root is a giant mountain.  But, my hope and prayer is that each one of us -- who take the residents on trips, who donate money to the home, who sit on the Board, who sell their art, who buy their art, who research the laws, who translate the documents, who provide training, who provide structure and kindness in the home, who do so many little things -- is removing a stone.  We are each removing a stone.  It is good, significant work.  Even if the mountain in front of us is big. 

I don't understand why Anna and Sassoon are still in the clinic, despite all your efforts and the efforts of many.  It is not just.  And there are no easy answers.  But, I do believe that our work is to continue to carry away the stones we can today. 

One day, I don't know when, the mountain will be moved.  In the meantime, I hurt with you, with them, as I can from so far away. 

And I will do what I can to move stones with you and with the international family of stone carriers you've assembled. 

This acquisition of government funding is one great large stone that has been moved – and by the hands of many of you – our family of stone carriers. 

I am grateful for you.  Let's rejoice together, spread out around the world, as we are. 

With honor and joy,


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

Tel. (480) 921-1181
Armenian Tel. (374) (10) 39-81-50

Address: PO Box 4784; Sunnyside NY 11104

Providing a Group Home for Orphans with Disabilities in Armenia

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Every action begins with strengthening the spirit. 

- C. P. Estes

Dear friends,

Our spring newsletter is attached and vailable for your perusal.  We hope you enjoy the news about our residents and the people all over the world who uphold them.  Thank you for being a part of the circle that surrounds them.  By the hands of many, a few are upheld.  We are honored and grateful to work with each of you. 

The following is an excerpt from the newsletter:

On the Darkest Nights: The Ways We Celebrate

Armenians know how to celebrate and our residents are no exception.  On some of the darkest nights of the year, they come together, prepare a feast and open their home to friends.  They make special cakes and fruit platters.  They decorate the home and light up their corner of 3rd Village.    Christmas is celebrated from December 24th through January 6th.  By the end of such lengthy festivities, our residents and staff have the satisfying fatigue of being full-hearted.  We hope that you were just as blessed this past winter.  As if life wasn’t full enough already, our residents also took their handicrafts (many of which were Christmas decorations) to local exhibits (see photo). There they were able to show the community the beauty that is theirs, and the beauty that they have learned to make.  They also celebrated with a few trips into the city!  It is a gift to be able to create light in the midst of dark seasons. Our staff and residents do this well. They are committed to the practice and each year our traditions grow and develop as a true family’s.  As spring is rounding the corner and daylight extends with every passing day, we move toward the outside world and harbor the joys that were cultivated through the winter.  Thank you for your gifts and donations which make such joy possible.

Sincerely Yours,

Natalie (for us all)



Dear friends and supporters -

Here is an excerpt from our 2010 Annual Report.  To read more and to see the full report, please open the attachment.

A letter from the founder

This year I was present for both Anahit’s and Davit’s birthday celebrations.  Anahit and Davit received gifts  from the staff.  For both occasions, there was a beautiful layered, homemade cake on the table.  And instead of a candle, we had sparklers!

It is a tradition at Warm Hearth that everyone present speaks their wishes for whomever we are celebrating.  I heard both whispers and confident toasts as Anahit and Davit were wished long lives, much love, and for their respective dreams to come true. 

Almost always, the one who is celebrated sheds a few tears.  They are tears of joy, for the most part.  But, does not every joy carry with it a bit of longing that almost feels like sadness?  I wonder if they long for the love of their families so acutely in those moments. 

Do they think of the loneliness they have carried with them most of their lives?  Or, do they think of the friendship that now belongs to them?

At the first birthday celebration after Warm Hearth opened, I remember wondering if that resident might break open from so much joy, from so much wonder.  I wondered: should we not celebrate so vibrantly?  Should we tame the celebrations for their sake?

I do not think a person can be given too much love.  So, I believe the answer is no.  Celebrate vibrantly!  Shower them with blessing.  And one day, they might realize how worthy of celebration they really are.  One day - when their celebrations at Warm Hearth outnumber the previous ones and their stories are re-read to include lifelong love.

    Sincerely Yours,

        Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri


Dear friends at Global Giving -

We at Warm Hearth are so grateful for the way that you have all chosen to honor and bless our residents.  Thank you for the generosity in December.  Thank you for your kindness that extends to our residents in Armenia.  Thank you for believing in them.  Thank you for taking part in their journey toward healing and integration. 

I talked to all the residents this morning.  After days and days of celebrating New Year (as is typical in Armenia), they are happily exhausted.  They had many visitors over to their home.  They sang.  They were each given a gift.  They feasted.  They made merry.  I wish all of us could have been there to see their joy, to see the house that has become a beautiful home. 

There is so much grace in what we have come together and made possible. 

Our cup runneth over. 

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Natalie Bryant-Rizzier

Founder & Executive Director

A supporter recently asked me what kind of vocational preparation and career building education exists at Warm Hearth and how we approach the issue of what will happen to our residents in the future. 

It is an important question. 

We do have vocational preparation right now.  Almost all of our residents are enrolled in a three-year university program for individuals with special needs, which is the first program of its kind in Armenia.  Our residents are able to choose between two majors: carpet weaving (an ancient Armenian art) and gardening. 

In addition to the university courses, we offer vocational courses in our own home to facilitate their independent living skills and to increase their quality of life.  Some examples of these courses include: managing and counting money, and basic cooking. 

Our residents are all orphaned individuals with disabilities over the age of eighteen.  When they graduated from high school they were required to leave the state-run orphanages and had nowhere to live except the large psychiatric institutions.  This is why we started Warm Hearth. 

In regard to our residents’ future, the truth is multi-faceted.

Some of our residents will probably never be able to live independently due to the severity of their disability. 

Others have this potential, to be sure, and we would love to see them on their own some day.  However, this is a complicated issue since society is still such that they are marginalized and not readily accepted in the community.  Armenian society is also very family-oriented and it would be perceived as strange for an individual or two to live alone.  Even healthy individuals rarely choose this option.

Aside from societal reasons, living on their own might also be a very difficult emotional endeavor.  In fact, some of the residents that are closer to being ready to live on their own don’t want to leave at this time.  They would struggle with loneliness due to the fact that they have lived in orphanages their entire lives and have literally been surrounded by people. Our residents, by and large, enjoy sharing rooms with others and having a lot of people around.

I hope that when the day comes that our residents feel ready to move on that both society and we can support them in this.  It is a goal of ours, and part of our mission to see them flourish and live as independently as possible.  In the meantime, we are committed to providing them a home as long as is necessary, desired, and in some cases, for life. 


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Organization Information

Friends of Warm Hearth, Inc.

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

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