A little background:
While volunteering for the Peace Corps at an orphanage in Armenia, Natalie saw a need for a long-term care to mentally-disabled adults that have outgrown orphanages. She knew that in a culture that hides the mentally disabled and considers them shameful, their only other option would be old soviet psychiatric hospitals. This is where Friends of Warm Hearth comes in to provide a brighter future to Armenian adults with disabilities.
We walked into the house in the suburbs of Yerevan where 11 residents live, and were immediately greeted by three smiley faces, Gayane, Davit and Roman.
Above: Roman and his infectious smile
As we toured the house with Alya, the Country Director, and Brian, a Peace Corps volunteer we witnessed the unique aspects and techniques used in the group home. Residents attend University during the day to learn vocational skills such as carpet weaving and gardening. At home, they are able to immediately practice these skills in the crafts room, the garden, or the carpet weaving room. In the evening, they engage in different fun activities from singing to dancing to puzzle making (Roman’s favorite!). And two times a week, the residents have group therapy sessions with a professional psychologist, in which they openly talk about their thoughts, feelings, and issues surrounding their respective disabilities.
Above: some of the crafts made by the residents. They are planning to sell the items online, can’t wait!
Alya spoke to us candidly about the struggles they’ve had raising awareness within the government about mental-disability. Under Armenian law, there is no distinction between physical disability and mental disability, and very little funding for either. As you can imagine they face the same struggles within the community. “We take our residents on trips around the country, they are fun and the residents really look forward to them! But they are also a great way to help promote the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the community.”
The residents were really excited to share their photo albums with us and perform some traditional Armenian songs, which was quickly turned by Agape and Davit to a great dance party!
Above: Gayane sharing a poem she learned at college
Friends of Warm Hearth is so much more than a group home. The resident receive specialized care, live in an inclusive nurturing environment, and learn important vocational skills. In the future, Alya hopes to expand “I dream of having a big home one day, with different groups of residents, living within similar levels of capabilities, and interacting with each other in a large communal place.”
We left the house with a sense of gratification, knowing that all your donations are going to a great project.
Support them here