Yerevan, Armenia: A home to welcome adults with mental disabilities

To read on Handiplanet website:

A home for orphans to keep the heart warm and turned to integration; Yerevan, Armenia

From Yelena Kirakosyan

Warm Hearth is the first long-term group home in Armenia.

The context of the creation

Our centre was founded by an American Peace Corps volunteer who worked at school No. 3 of Yerevan for 2 years. We welcome adults, orphans with mental disabilities. When they are 18 it is the end of school. The Government doesn’t pay anymore for  homing: . They had nowhere to go. She then collected funds in the United States and opened this home with the help of the Peace Corps and the NGO Mission Armenian so that they have a future, a life like everyone else.

Its Director hired me to ensure the opening which took place in 2006. Until 2008, it was administered by the Armenian Mission. The Foundation Warm Hearth was born then to manage the House. At the beginning there was 6 residents today there are 13.

The goal: Be inspired by others to create an Armenian model

The general objective is to organize a home model which did not exist until then and see if this model works. At the beginning we inspired by the model of the United States and we adapted it to our countries. Today we can say that it is an Armenian model. It is currently the only House that offers this type of response to adults with intellectual disabilities.

Life at home and outside

Residents aged between 20 and 33. They come originally from Kapan school – special school No. 3- and Parakiar, school special No. 2. The Ministry through its social services, worked with us and gave us the necessary information on the course of those young adults. Our criterion for admission is the age – 18 years and more-with a mental handicap without psychiatric disorders. Residents live here. It became their home, they live as a community. Initially, they had a very individual behaviour but little by little each has learned to share. Residents are involved in activities during the day; They participate in the maintenance of the home and the preparation of the meals. We have several craft activities including the manufacture of carpets. We offer trips also. Ten of them are pursuing a course of study at special college, for vocational training.

After dinner at 3 pm, they have care by therapists or they go by their own. At 7 pm they mealtime and at 10 pm in principle, they go to bed. We also accompany them in daily life, in stores, at Church, in the parks. In the summer we organize camps depending on our budgets.

Our means.

We have thirteen members of staff and it’s very fair: 7 carers, a doctor, a psychologist, a home hostess, an accountant, 2 maintenance men and myself who manage the home. Teachers volunteers also come to train them in crafts and offer courses in dance and singing. Our partner « Bridge of Hope » helps us for training programs at the college as well as our long term partner  the Armenian Mission. Our funds come mainly from the United States through the Foundation SOAR. We receive no funds from the State. Residents have a pension of $ 25 per month. For part they use this money for themselves and for part we use this sum for the costs of accommodation.

The House has a total area of 800 m² spread over 4 floors. We had added an extension of 27 m² to accommodate people who have behavior disorders and to facilitate their integration into the group. This House built on a plot of 400 m², we have arranged it ourselves.

Teachings and developments

We have not fully reached the objectives because we do still receive no assistance from the State to extend the model. But, however it is a help to the resolution of the problem. Our strategy remains to develop the model further with the Government. We seek to ensure that these houses are term funded 50% Armenian. We also want to be present to change laws and create services such as day center, an information centre, care centres .

The main problem is still the negative representation of disability. Armenian society is not ready to live with persons with a mental handicap. Not for so long, they were locked up in families, lived in an invisible world.

Today we have neighbourhood problems. Two months ago one of our strong speaking residents on the balcony caused the call of the police. So we are considering another implementation to live more in harmony with the surroundings.

We seek to have access to devices such as the program against poverty. But the problem is that most of the residents have no paper.

I hope that our work will be recognized and will push the State to support mental disability. Hasn’t it ratified the international convention for the rights of people with disabilities?