Armenia + 1 more

Armenia: Friendships cross the age barrier

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An Armenian Red Cross project to help elderly refugees living in Yerevan has resulted in some unexpected friendships. The Psycho Social Care for Elderly Refugees project, started in May 1999, targets a group of elderly Armenian refugees cut off from social contact through sickness and poverty.
The refugees, from Nagorno Karabakh and the Azerbaijani capital, Baku live in small, cramped conditions in a hostel in the Armenian capital. Though they are happy to have a roof over their heads, they are lonely and isolated. The project, implemented by a team of 10 Red Cross youth volunteers, means the refugees are visited at home twice a week by a volunteer to provide essential human and social contact. "It is amazing how they long for our visits," Red Cross volunteer Emma Khachatrian says. "They need someone able to listen and comfort them, to make sure they are not alone."

Victoria and Agasi Nasibian from Nagorno Karabakh, have been living at the hostel for 5 years. 74 year-old Victoria spends most of her time looking after her bed-ridden 76 year-old husband, Agasi. As they fled the conflict at home, they left behind their house with a nice garden and all their possessions. Their children are dotted across the world in search of jobs and a new life and seem to have lost contact with their parents.

Emma's support has been invaluable to the couple and for them, she is now like a grandchild. "Even our children didn't congratulate us on New Year's Eve, but Emma was here with chocolates and (christmas) tree decorations," Victoria recalls. She still keeps the tree decorations, adding proudly "my child gave it to me." Another volunteer, Tigran says the ties between the refugees and the volunteers are so strong that if the project ends, they will continue to visit their old friends.

=A91997 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies