Children lacking boots play in the snow in sandals

The Gegharkunik region of Armenia is considered the coldest in the country. In winter, the high temperature can be 4 below zero, while at night it may drop to 22 below zero. These kinds of temperatures are even more challenging, because many children don’t have warm clothes to wear. World Vision works to provide warm clothing and shoes to children in need in cold climates like this.

By Ani Chitemyan and Kristy J. O’Hara
Published December 9, 2013 at 10:15am PST

Eleven-year-old Vardanush loves to play in the snow with her sisters, Eugenia, 13, and Anoush, 6. The girls live in eastern Armenia, where winter lasts about six months and provides myriad opportunities to play in the powder.

But the Gegharkunik region of Armenia, where the girls live, is also considered the coldest in the country. In winter, the high temperature can be 4 below zero, while at night it may drop to 22 below zero. These kinds of temperatures are even more challenging, because the girls don’t have warm clothes to wear.

“When our clothes get wet after the play, mum hardly finds any other warm clothes to change the already wet ones,” Vardanush says. “So I had to spend some time in bed under the cover, until my clothes dry up again.”

She sometimes can find old clothes from her neighbors, but because of how worn they are, they don’t keep the children warm. The children also don’t have boots, so they wear their sandals even in the winter.

“I wish mum could buy warm winter boots for me and my sisters, and we could play outside without a fear of getting cold,” says Eugenia. “We don’t have proper winter boots, and our feet always get wet or cold on the way to school, as the whole village is covered with snow.”

The girls have come up with creative ways of combating cold feet.

“When, halfway to school, I feel that my feet are already cold, I find a stone not covered with snow, take [off] my shoes, and stand on it,” Vardanush says. “If it is a sunny day, the stone is surely warmer than the snow, so I warm up my feet a little and then put on my shoes again, and we continue.”

Vardanush’s parents, Lyudmila and Karen, never know how they will survive the six-month-long severe and snowy winter. Karen, 36, struggles to find work to provide for his family and will do any odd job to help support them, but there are many unemployed men in their village, so competition for jobs is fierce.

The family has only the small state poverty allowance to purchase food, so they subsist on potatoes and bread, two of the cheapest items they can buy. Lyudmila knows this isn’t a good diet for her children, but she can’t do anything to improve it.

They have no money for clothes or wood to burn. Instead, to keep warm, the family is dependent on the animal manure they collect from the neighboring sheds to burn in the winter.

“My daughters, my husband, and I go to the nearby sheds in summer and collect some manure. We dry it in our yard and prepare for the winter. Manure smells awful, but it is burnable, and I can ensure at least a bearable temperature in the house,” says 35-year-old Lyudmila.

The family became partially supported by a World Vision program last year, but more resources are needed to be able to fully meet this and other families’ needs, and help keep their children warm and in school.

Three ways you can help

This Christmas, pray for children and families who struggle to stay warm in cold climates like Armenia, where poverty is amplified during the dark, frigid months of winter.

Make one-time donation to help deliver warm clothing to children in need in places like Armenia. Thanks to corporate contributions, your gift will multiply in impact to ship and distribute items like thick coats, warm pants and shirts, sweaters, hats, scarves, shoes, boots, and more.

Sponsor a child in Armenia today. Your love and commitment for a boy or girl in need will help provide basics like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, access to education, warm clothing for the winter months, and more.

Highlights

  • Despite Armenia’s bone-chilling winter temperatures, many children living in poverty here don’t have proper clothing to keep warm.
  • Vardanush, 11, doesn’t have adequate boots to wear on the way to school — so she warms her cold feet on sun-heated stones.
  • Her family’s only means of keeping their home warm is to burn animal manure.
  • World Vision responds to the needs of children living in frigid climates by distributing donated shoes, boots, and warm clothing during the winter months.

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