When we first think about poverty in other countries around the world, some of the first images that come to mind tend to be mental images of poverty in warm climates such as Africa or India. However, cold-weather poverty is a unique reality in the world and presents its own set of challenges.
While I grew up and live in an area that experiences bitter cold for a good portion of the year (shout-out to my fellow Maniacs), I’ve never had to face the challenges of dire poverty in such a harsh climate. A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Armenia with World Vision, and was able to learn about the challenges of cold-weather poverty on a new level. On this Giving Tuesday, I’m happy to introduce you to a family I met, whose life has been impacted by the amazing relief work that World Vision is doing in their community.
When I first met the Ghazaryan family, it was just seven degrees above zero when we stepped into their home that was made out of a 1980’s Russian shipping container. Ani told us that most days she’d stay curled in bed with the children because it was too cold to get out from under the covers, and that they’d have to wait each day for her husband Vartan to return with firewood– a hard task in Armenia’s desolate, snow-covered hills.
While I met many families in Armenia, the Ghazaryans stand out the most in my memory because of how happy they were despite life’s circumstances. When I asked them why the were overflowing with such joy, Ani told me, “because we just want to spread the warmth.”
It was beautiful, and very symbolic.
Because they were the most memorable family I met, I was particularly excited to get a recent update on how they are doing two years later, through the support of World Vision:
As a mother of now four children (who all have child sponsors now!), Ani learned skills from World Vision’s child development program, Go Baby Go. “Before, I didn’t know how to make simple toys and didn’t spend much time with the children. Now I’m busy with them most of the time and we go outside so they can play. I know that’s important for them.” Ani says. World Vision gave them educational books, including fairy tales and books about animals that she reads with them.
The family also recently received a food pack from World Vision, and three out of the four children just received gift notifications from their sponsors in the U.S., which means they’ll be able to purchase some additional needs for the family this winter that otherwise they would not have been able to.
During a recent check-in with the family, as well as during my visit in 2015, Ani seemed particularly grateful to simply have the
basic, tangible need for warm clothing for her and the children, that was provided through World Vision.
“Before I had warm gloves, my hands would get so cold on the way to school that I couldn’t write. It took a long time to warm them so I could do my work,” she says. “It means a lot to me that my children are sponsored and receive gifts from someone who cares about what they eat and what they wear… I know someone far away loves them, too.”
And that last line of the recent report I received on the Ghazaryans is what made me smile most. To reflect back and remember her telling me that her joy amidst such struggles was because she wanted to “spread the warmth”, and to now see that come full-circle, with literal warmth returned along with the knowledge that someone far away loves and cares, meant everything to me.
It also reminded me why I’m so passionate about child sponsorship with World Vision, especially after getting to see the impact first hand.
Today is Giving Tuesday! For the fourth consecutive year, World Vision and Thirty-One Gifts have partnered to double the impact made by donors’ Giving Tuesday gifts. Any gift given to World Vision today will be matched with a donation of product from Thirty-One Gifts up to $1,000,000, so any donation you make will have twice the impact for helping families in need around the world.
The Thirty-One Gifts sweatshirt that Ani was wearing during the bitterly cold Armenian winter was given to World Vision to match generous donations on Giving Tuesday last year!
You can choose any item to donate through World Vision today, but if you want to make a direct donation to help keep children and families warm this winter, I recommend their Clothing for Children fund!