Warm Hearth is a nation-wide movement in Armenia that provides forever homes for people with special needs.
Warm Hearth started as an idea. It was born out of love and a commitment to our first group of residents. Scroll down to read about how this idea has taken root in the world.
What We've Accomplished
In 2006, we opened the first long-term group home in Armenia to eight residents from Kapan, Armenia. Our first group of residents were on the brink of being sent to psychiatric institutions only because there was no other means of support.
In 2008 and 2009, we welcomed a second group of residents with the same needs, who had outgrown the orphanages.
In addition, we established our own Armenian nonprofit, Jermik Ankyun Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting and serving our residents.
In 2012 we added a "garden house" on our property that could serve as a living space for residents with higher needs. We brought two additional residents home, who had been living in psychiatric institutions for two to five years.
In 2018 we opened a second home in the village of Arinj to eight new residents. We plan to extend this home to include eight additional people by the end of 2021.
What We've Learned
This is strenuous work with seasons of struggle, as well as seasons of rejoicing. We have learned much along the way that guides and sustains our continued efforts. Here are some of the insights we have come across as we have labored.
- As the Armenian proverb says, "If we move shoulder to shoulder, we can turn mountains."
Nothing we have done has been accomplished alone. We rely heavily on our supporters and volunteers. Some of our best ideas have come from the "outside." As a result, we practice keeping our ears and eyes open, as well as our hearts.
- Despair and hope often walk side-by-side. We have learned to hold the hands of both.
- Individuals with special needs are even more forgotten than we initially realized both in Armenia and in much of the world. They also are of deep and inherent value. What they offer society is a unique way of viewing the world, a tenacious hope, the ability to embrace and be embraced, profound skills and insights and much more. To reflect these unique gifts, we are beginning to explore using the phrase diverse abilities to describe our residents.
- Small is beautiful. One of the benefits of starting small has been that we can focus on each resident, on their individual needs, and on creating a home life that benefits them. Each step we have taken in expanding has been well thought-out. This has allowed us to move with confidence toward reaching more individuals like our residents.
- Endurance, a cultivated love, sheer grace, and a commitment to the value of these individuals are the sustenance of Warm Hearth.
Copyright: Chris Kitahara
Where We're Headed
In our first five years, we were focused on creating a group home that provided high quality and loving care to our residents. The most important thing continues to be that our residents are thriving.
As we look forward, our commitment to the residents remains the same. They are the reason for Warm Hearth. But our focus is on a sustainable model that can be replicated even further in Armenia so that more individuals like our residents can be served outside of institutional settings. The model we strive for utilizes Armenian government support, private, local and international donations, self-generated income projects and public funds.
Individuals with special needs are still often institutionalized, and stigmatized as dangerous, inhuman, and shameful. But the solution we have created in Warm Hearth group home is working. It breaks into what is otherwise a closed system.
Warm Hearth interrupts the negative interlocking cycles of attitude and injustice by providing an inlet for hope and change on the individual, institutional and national level.
We have built credibility with the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues in Armenia and are proud to have a three-year contract with them to support our first home. Their contribution to our group home has allowed us to open the Arinj home and eventually other homes to provide loving care for other orphaned or abandoned individuals with diverse abilities.
How You Can Help
We are grateful for the many of you who have walked with us since the beginning and for those of you who have joined us along the way. All of those involved in Warm Hearth have been ordinary people, joining their small hands, as it were, to create a welcoming place, a home, for our residents.
We are committed to continuing this work – together – and invite you to join us.
To provide holistic, integrated and forever homes for Armenian orphans special needs throughout the nation of Armenia and to foster mutually transforming relationships between resident, staff, neighbor and fellow citizen.
To prevent orphaned adults with special needs from being forced to spend the remainder of their lives homeless or in psychiatric institutions in Armenia and to advocate on their behalf. To provide our residents with individualized care in a group-home setting that mimics family life to the extent possible and that empowers our residents to live as independently and confidently as possible.
- We will act in the best interests of our residents’ social, physical, mental, spiritual and vocational development. We will provide growth opportunities for people of all abilities.
- We believe in community integration that honors culture and tradition. Within this context, we will amplify the voices and gifts of people of all abilities.
- We will preserve and protect our residents’ dignity, choices, fulfillment, privacy and independence.
- We will create inclusive communities of friendship and mutuality where resident and staff members seek to break down any barriers between them.
- We will move toward being locally led and sustainable.
**All stories and photographs of the residents are shared with their joyful permission.**