Friday, June 24, 2011

Seeing the Hope in UMCOR

Jorik Papayan lives in peace these days at the Narek Elderly Home. He collects fresh flowers from the field and gives them away to other residents.
Photo: Judith Santiago

Today I visited the Narek Elderly Home in Abovyan City, Kotayk Marz. It’s a center for the homeless or displaced who have no immediate family members to care for them. The residents are mostly refugees who fled the countryside because of the war. UMCOR supports its cheese program, provides relief supplies, and through partner Foods Resource Bank, provides cows, chickens, and beehives to help support the dietary needs of those residing at the center.

Shoger Mikaelyan, who runs Narek Elderly Home with her husband Fridon, says that she is very grateful to UMCOR because without its support the center would not survive. She acknowledged that Narek is living at the expense of UMCOR.

I met briefly the first resident of Narek. His name is Jorik Papyan, 79 years old. Shoger says she found him picking through trash to find food. When she offered him money and he reached out to receive her generosity, she noticed that Jorik could not see. At the time, Jorik was living with his brother-in law after the death of his beloved mother, whom he witnessed getting beaten to death during the war. But Jorik himself was brutally mistreated and starved by his brother-in law. When Shoger learned Jorik’s story, she took him in and made sure he received medical attention. Later, an operation would give him better eyesight. Today, he spends his days gathering flowers from the field and giving them all away.
While she related Jorik’s story, a resident danced outside. The center has become a home and a family in which the elderly can share their stories and live out the rest of their lives.

Fridon and Shoger run the elderly home mostly on their own, but have additional support from their daughter-in law, Arevik, and their grandson, Narek. Working with special-needs and bedridden residents, it’s a wonder how Shoger and her husband manage to stay on top of things. When I asked her how she does it, she replied, “It’s something in our blood, or maybe I got it from my sister who cared for other people.” Whatever the reason for the passion behind her work, she says, it gives her peace.
Afterwards, we drove to Semyonovka village to meet with a few Foods Resource Bank beneficiary families, who have received training and either sheep, chickens, or beehives. Twenty-four families were identified as the most vulnerable in this village. The head of the municipality, whose first name is David, relayed to us that he had a difficult time narrowing the number down to 24 families when so many others needed assistance.

Karina, has five daughters, two grandchildren and a husband who cannot walk because of a war injury. She relies on the chickens provided to her that produce approximately 10 eggs per day. With no access to water, she must walk many kilometers four times a day to obtain enough water to prepare food, wash clothes and bathe. One of her daughters offered to milk her neighbor’s cows in order to earn some money for the family.

One woman, named Mazus, saw the UMCOR van and ran to Karina’s house thinking that another UMCOR training was taking place. We all laughed together. She shared her gratitude for UMCOR’s support and looks forward to the multiplication of her livestock next year.

Since the start of my journey with survivors of trafficking to today’s elderly home visit there is not one need that can be passed over. The needs are great and they are everywhere. It has been a privilege to meet with UMCOR beneficiaries on many levels and assess their needs for survival. UMCOR is greatly respected everywhere we have visited. I saw how UMCOR was a beacon for those who have received so little in life and how a simple sewing kit can turn sorrow into hope. Maintaining the level of service UMCOR provides comes with great responsibility, compassion, and generous, faithful giving to serve the most vulnerable. As United Methodists and people of God we must do more and do all that we can corporately and individually, so that one day we may hear these words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Tonight, I am in Tblisi, Georgia, and on June 24 I will visit in the Patriarch Policlinic and later a settlement of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Tblisi where UMCOR has provided relief supplies.

*Judith Santiago is the Media Communications Associate for UMCOR.

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