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.