Sargis Hejejyan (left) and Sveta Yegiazaryan enjoy their elder years together at an UMCOR-supported home for the aged near the Armenian capital. Photo: Anahit Gasparyan.
By Anahit Gasparyan*
October 1, 2014—Sargis Hejejyan, 82, and Sveta Yegiazaryan, 68, met and married at Yerevan #1 Home for the Elderly in Armenia. Each had suffered devastating losses in their lives, but at the home, they found comfort, hope and joy in each other, in a caring staff and in the kindness of strangers.
Yerevan #1 Home for the Elderly is located on the outskirts of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. It is home to 230 seniors. A state-run institution, its administrators, doctors, nurses, cooks and social workers are devoted to the residents and daily mobilize all available resources to offer activities for them.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) supports the work of Yerevan #1 and other homes for the aged in Armenia, and on a recent staff visit, Sveta and Sargis shared their story.
Sveta was born in Armenia and is a former physics teacher. Her career was cut short 10 years ago by a car accident that left her blind and alone. Ultimately, she moved to Yerevan #1, where her naturally cheerful disposition flourished. Today, she spends much of her time writing and reciting poems.
Sargis is quiet and attentive and hangs on the words of his wife. He is from an Armenian family that had settled in Lebanon and repatriated to Armenia in 1947. For 50 years, he worked for the Yerevan city government, repairing roads. He, too, suffered a life-changing car crash, which took the lives of his first wife and their children.
When Sargis and Sveta met at Yerevan #1 Home for the Elderly, they fell in love and decided to face the rest of life’s challenges together, supporting and caring for each other. They enjoy caring for the home’s trees and flowers, and would like to start a beekeeping farm and harvest honey for all the residents.
When inflation and economic crisis drove the Armenian government to reduce financial allocations not only to Yerevan #1 but to other homes for the aged as well, UMCOR, through its Armenia country office, worked with the institutions to ensure that operations—and life at the homes—could continue normally.
For most of the residents of Armenia’s four state-run and various private homes for the elderly, there is no family to care for them, so the home is all they have. Grown children may lack the resources to provide basic healthcare and nutrition for their elderly parents. Social challenges within families also may undermine once-cherished family and social links.
UMCOR helps these institutions meet the daily nutritional needs of their residents by providing donations of cheese. This program has operated, with funding from the U.S. Department of State since 1999.
In addition, UMCOR provides in-kind supplies, such as health kits, bedding packs and quilts.
During the recent staff visit to Yerevan #1 Home for the Elderly, UMCOR-donated quilts could be seen neatly covering beds, and hygiene supplies had been distributed and were in use.
Residents were aware of UMCOR’s support—especially in the form of tasty cheese—over many years. They appreciated every item donated, and that the items were more than just a towel or a quilt because they were made and sent with love.
It was clear that every resident of Yerevan #1 was surrounded by caring nurses and other staff, and that the seniors were well respected. Thanks to UMCOR-donated supplies and cheese, the home is able to meet the needs of elderly residents like Sargis and Sveta and make their lives comfortable and happy.
International Day of Older Persons is October 1. Mark it with your gift to Armenia Development, Advance #250225, and support this and other UMCOR programs in Armenia.
*Anahit Gasparyan is coordinator of UMCOR Armenia’s food security and nutrition programs.