When brothers Andre and Artem in Armenia couldn’t go to school because they didn’t have warm enough clothes to go outside in the winter, they felt ashamed.
Find out how the gift of warm coats and boots ended their shame and helped them stay in school!
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I remember when I was a child that the first snow was always magical. I couldn’t wait to get all bundled up so I could run outside (or maybe “waddle” is a better word, with all those layers) and go sledding down the hill behind our house. I don’t remember feeling cold. I just wanted to stay outside and play all day.
But this past March, I met two brothers in Armenia — Andre and Artem — who didn’t greet the snow with excitement. Instead it brought them shame, because their family couldn’t afford warm coats, gloves, and boots.
Their father, Garnik, works as a maintenance man at a hydroelectric plant. He’s fortunate to have employment since there’s very little work in the rural regions of the country. Men often migrate to Russia or Turkey to seek employment.
Still, Garnik doesn’t earn much, and sometimes he doesn’t receive his full wages or doesn’t get them on time. This makes it difficult for the family to afford necessities like winter clothing.
The boys live in the northwest — Amasia — one of the coldest regions in the country. Winters can last between six and seven months of the year.
A brutal cold snap hit the region last February. Temperatures dropped as low as -37 degrees Celsius (-34.6 F) and stayed below freezing for days.
When Artem was about 3 years old, his hands got red and swollen after being outside in the cold. Artem’s mother, Anna, took him to the doctor, who said that Artem had gotten frostbite. He told Anna that Artem’s hands would be especially sensitive to cold for the rest of his life and that he needed to always wear warm gloves.
Like all growing children, the brothers had outgrown their clothes. Nine-year-old Andre’s boots from last year were too small. Anna cut off the tops of the boots so Andre could get his feet into them, but that meant the slushy snow could get inside, too.
Eight-year-old Artem had holes in the soles of his boots and the cloth tops soaked through quickly.
Understanding the boots’ worn condition, feeling how very cold it was outside, and especially with Artem’s history, Anna made the decision to keep the boys home from school. It’s only a 10-minute walk, but even that short time outside in the bitter cold was too much.
This news devastated the boys.
Anna says, “It broke my heart when they asked me, ‘Mom, how come our neighbors have good shoes and coats and we don’t?’”
When friends came by to walk with the boys to school, they hid inside. They were too ashamed to come to the door to tell their friends that they couldn’t go,because they didn’t have the warm coats or boots they needed.
Anna herself didn’t want to admit to the need, so she told their friends they weren’t going to school that day. Andre and Artem hid inside and watched through their window as their better dressed classmates went on to school.
“I was very sad when we couldn’t go to school,” says Andre. “When I got back, I caught up with work as quick as I could.”
Then World Vision offered the brothers warm coats. Corporate donors provided them as a product donation, which enables World Vision to pass on these much-needed items.
They’re a little on the large side so that the boys won’t outgrow them as this next winter descends on their community. Equally important, they received shin-high yellow boots that will keep out the cold and wet and keep their feet warm and dry.
Now they can have the experience that I had as a child — eager to get outside and play in the snow. They don’t have to be afraid of the cold. They don’t have to feel ashamed again this year: a lack of warm clothes will not keep them out of school!
Help keep a child in need warm this winter! Donate today to our clothing for children fund.
When you sponsor a child, you help keep him or her warm, fed, in school, and more for the long term. Choose your child in Armenia today!