Poverty means freezing winters without warm clothing

Struggles for families in need intensify during Armenia’s long, frigid winters. Some are forced into the unimaginable position of choosing between buying food or warm clothing to help their children survive the bone-chilling cold.

Story and photos by Armenuhi Sahakyan, World Vision Armenia.
Published December 4, 2012 at 12:00am PST

Vaghinak Movsesyan, 39, and his wife, Haykuhi Beglaryan, 32, live with their nine children and Vaghinak’s mother, Shura Movsesyan, 73, in a sparsely-furnished one-room dwelling in rural Armenia.

An old carpet covers part of the cement floor, which is freezing cold during the winter. The room is heated by a wood stove, which also helps boil water for baths and laundry.

“Starting from late October, we dry the clothes in the room, because children do not have extra sets of clothes,” explains Shura.

“This increases the moisture level in the room, which is not good, but we have no other place to dry [the] clothes fast.”

The moisture level also goes up when the children take baths. “We don’t have a bathroom, and this is the only place they can take a bath without getting cold,” explains Haykuhi.

The hardship of winter

Life is tough for the Movsesyan family year-round — but winter brings additional burdens.

“I am very much afraid of long-lasting winter,” says Haykuhi. “Cold weather requires so much input. Heating, warm clothing, and food are so expensive — and sometimes, even not affordable.”

The children are forced to go outside, even when the temperature dips below zero. The space they use as a kitchen is located outside the room. So is the toilet. To get there, they have to cross the snowy yard.

“I don’t have winter shoes, and my legs get wet often in [my] slippers when I go out,” complains 4-year-old Suzan.

Lacking basics

Seda, 15, has the opposite problem: She always wears her boots because she doesn’t have slippers. “My feet get tired in the boots, but I know my parents can’t afford…everything,” she says.

And Haykuhi’s third daughter, Nune, 11, wears the clothing her older sisters used to wear. So do the youngest siblings.

“Sometimes, our relatives and neighbors also share their clothes with us,” says Mariam, 10.

Nune, meanwhile, reveals a harsh truth. “Often, we put few clothes [on], one over the other, to resist the cold,” she says. “I always put the clothes with holes or spots under the newer one.”

The only stable income the family has is Shura’s pension fund, as well as a governmental allowance for the children. Work is very hard to find in this region.

“Even if we buy the minimum [amount of clothing] needed per child, it may cost us a huge amount of money,” laments Haykuhi.

Renewed hope and confidence

So when World Vision provided the family with new shoes and warm clothing, it marked a new beginning.

“We gained some confidence in [the] future from the day World Vision employees first visited us,” remembers Vaghinak.

Haykuhi, who was saving money for a long time to buy such items, is thrilled. “Now, we may use the savings to buy something else for [the] children,” she says.

Seda is equally happy. “My sisters, Nune and Mariam, look so nice in their new jackets. As for me, I like the blue blankets very much,” she says. “They are so soft and warm, and my grandma also may use them to warm up her shoulders or legs.”

“A dignified life”

But warm clothing and shoes is not the only support World Vision plans to provide.

“We will be provided with a cow. I know how to take care of an animal, and I will do my best to multiply it,” says Vaghinak hopefully. “One day my family may have a small herd, which may feed [my] all children.”

Next to the room where the family lives, there is a new building under construction. In it is enough space to create rooms for the children and a separate area for them to do their homework.

“World Vision offered a help in form of construction materials. My husband and our neighbors will do the construction on their own,” says Haykuhi.

“The move to the new home will be such a relief; finally, my children can live a dignified life.”

World Vision has worked in this area of Armenia since 2004, where some 3,460 children are sponsored and our development programs focus on caring for families that struggle to provide for their children because of poverty.

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.