How do you survive a seven-month winter when you have next to nothing?
See how Hasmik's family survives in wintry Armenia, and how World Vision is helping to keep families like theirs a little warmer this winter.
Five-year-old Hamaspyur (called Hasmik for short) steps gingerly out into the snow-covered landscape. It’s unusual for her to be standing outside during the winter months because her family has no winter shoes for her. The snow quickly soaks her pink fabric shoes, leaving her cold and shivering.
Her mother, Rima, worries about her children being outside in the cold, afraid they will get sick.
In this remote corner of Armenia, Hasmik and many of her six siblings can be stuck inside for most of the seven cold months—all because the family can’t afford basics like warm boots or clothing.
When I was in Amasia, Armenia earlier this year, I learned that poverty in this country is measured by a family’s ability to provide weather-appropriate clothing for children. By this and just about any other standard, Hasmik’s family is impoverished.
The family of 11 lives upstairs from Hasmik’s grandfather. They access their second-floor apartment through a makeshift, slippery 45-degree ramp. Inside, the family huddles in one room for half the year. They push their beds into the room with the wood-burning stove so they can stay warm during the harsh winters.
Hasmik’s father, Sanassar, works odd jobs in construction during the winter and in agriculture during the summer to try to support his family. Once he traveled to work in Russia, following the lure of a better-paying job. But when the owner of the business refused to pay him, he was left with no recourse and returned home empty-handed.
In this part of the world, families who can afford animals burn their dung to keep warm. But Hasmik’s family doesn’t even own livestock so they must pay for firewood out of the subsidy money the government provides to families in need.
When I visited them, they had two logs left in the box next to stove. Their money for the month was gone and the stores won’t offer them more credit because of their mounting debts. Sanassar’s grandfather, who owns the house, can’t help out as he is also impoverished.
And so Hasmik and her family wait and hope that somehow they will be able to get the firewood they desperately need. The barren landscape offers no free woodcutting options. Only a few scrubby bushes dot the horizon.
Lack of winter clothes and most especially boots keep Hasmik and many of her siblings home from school in especially inclement weather. On better days, Sanassar carries the younger children, including Hasmik, to school. The older ones walk in their tennis shoes.
But in bad weather, they must stay home and that means they fall further and further behind in their lessons. Missing school increases the odds that the children will follow their parents into a poverty-stricken life.
As we left the family, Rima stood outside behind Hasmik. She rubbed the girl’s hands, trying to warm them. Then she hurried her children up the ramp, back inside to where it’s warm—at least until the last logs burned.
In the Amasia region of northern Armenia, World Vision is at work during the long winter months to help provide warm clothing and food assistance to families whose food and heat may not last the winter. Join us in keeping families warm: help provide clothing to children today!
Last winter, seven bloggers joined us in northern Armenia to experience the harsh winter there and see how difficult it is to live in poverty in that climate. Read stories from their journey here.
One of the best ways to provide for a family’s long-term needs is through child sponsorship. Choose a child in Armenia to sponsor today: