Gift of warm clothing helps children feel loved, supported

Poverty for the Ananyan family starts on their doorstep — at the partially-collapsed gate that points to the struggles of the people living here. Staying warm during the frigid winter months is a hardship, which is why clothing provided by World Vision has made such a difference.

Photos and story by Armenuhi Sahakyan. Edited by Peter Warski.
Published December 21, 2011 at 12:00am PST

The family’s home, which shelters 11 people, would seem to be abandoned if not for the sounds of children playing in the backyard. They’re partially clothed, wearing only light shirts, giving the impression that it’s summertime.

Only the thick layer of snow on the mountains surrounding this Armenian village betrays the fact that it’s winter.

When asked why he doesn’t zip up his pullover, 10-year-old Azat answers simply, “It is stylish.” Actually, his zipper is broken.

A life of hardship

The Ananyan family settled in the area in the late 1990s after fleeing conflict. “My mother Anahit took my sister Inga and I, and [we] settled here with hope for a better life,” remembers Nver, 26.

Anahit was already divorced, and bringing up the children has been a continuous struggle.

“When my sister got married, I was still a teenager and was full of expectations that their unity would be a breaking point in our difficult life,” says Nver. Sadly, Inga’s marriage lasted just eight years, creating a difficult situation for her five children.

“My sister-in-law’s children were lacking essentials from their birth,” says Nver’s 30-year-old wife, Nelli. “Sometimes, I think they survive with God’s willingness only.”

Feeling powerless

Despite his impaired vision, 12-year-old Slavik works hard to help out at home, even in the depths of winter.When Nelli married Nver, she tried to take a role of the second mother for the children. “I love these children and do not mind taking care of them, but there is so little in my power,” she says.

Anahit and Nver do any job available to earn income, which often only covers the cost of basic food. Usually, they are paid in products, which sometimes are not of primary need for their family.

Inga has moved to take a stable job as a cleaning lady. She sends almost all the money she earns to the five children — but the meager income is never enough to meet their needs.

The eldest child, Slavik, 12, is blind in one eye. The youngest, Armen, 4, has never even lived with his parents, and rarely sees his mother, Inga. Despite his vision problem, Slavik tries to help out at home.

“I carry water, bring animal manure from the storage to heat the house, and help Nelli to carry heavy things,” he says. “I don’t need good sight to be able to be useful.”

Dark, frigid winters

Before receiving new clothing, Azat couldn't hide the fact that he was cold, wearing just a pullover that wouldn't even zip.The difficult lives of the children is less stressful during the summer. But the winters here can be long and brutal. They begin in early November and last through the end of April.

Last year, winter hit when the family was simply not prepared to face the cold days.

“We did not manage to buy warm clothes and shoes for any of the children,” says Nelli. “I see how much my husband and mother-in-law work. But their hands do not manage to solve the clothing issue.”

She feels bad that her children experience shame wearing worn-out clothes at school — or miss classes altogether because they have nothing to wear.

Brand-new clothing — and the feeling of being loved

But last winter, the Ananyan children received warm, colorful, and comfortable clothing provided through World Vision.

Our generous corporate partners donate top-quality, brand-new products, such as coats, sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, sturdy shoes, and more. We then ship and distribute these items to families in need in cold winter climates like Armenia.

For these children, the new clothing is enough to make them feel cared for during the most difficult time of the year.

“I have never had new clothes,” says Armen with a sincere smile. “[I] have always worn the used-up clothes of my elder brother.”

Slavik, referring to his impaired vision, also chimes in. “I hardly differentiate the colors of the clothes, but can feel how soft and warm they are,” says the boy.

“I received a pink coat,” says Maria shyly. “I am so happy for the color.”

Now, as never before, the Ananyan children will feel warm. This Christmas season — and throughout the winter months — World Vision hopes to bring a similar blessing to other families whose struggles with poverty are intensified during the season of extreme cold and darkness.

Three ways you can help

Pray for God’s provision for families like the Ananyans, who live in cold climates and lack sufficient resources to stay warm and healthy during the wintertime.

Make a one-time gift to help provide new clothing to children in need. Thanks to corporate donations, your donation multiplies 11 times in impact to help deliver items like coats, shirts, pants, shoes, hats, and more to children who suffer from exposure to the elements.

Sponsor a child in Armenia. Your love and support will help provide a boy or girl in need with access to life-giving basics, like warm, safe shelter, and the ability to stay in school.