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CNEWA Launches Appeal to Bring Warmth to Elderly Armenians

28 Oct 2019 – NEW YORK — Catholic Near East Welfare Association has joined forces with Caritas Armenia to bring warmth to the elderly living in impoverished conditions deep in the mountains and valleys of northern Armenia. Temperatures there can plummet to –22°F throughout the long winter season.

More than a third of Armenians aged 65 and older — or some 300,000 people — live below the poverty line. Most live alone, as working-age men increasingly move abroad for work; many never return to their families. Exacerbating the matter is the quality of the housing; many of the most vulnerable populations still live in temporary housing set up after the great earthquake that devastated Armenia in December 1988.

“The extreme climate conditions, as well as the housing conditions of the elderly, make daily life for them practically impossible,” writes Gagik Tarasyan, director of Caritas Armenia. To keep warm, “they burn whatever is flammable: pasteboard, cardboard, garbage, paper, plastic, old clothing, shoes and young tree saplings.” While perhaps “flammable,” some of these substances produce toxic fumes that “help cause illness and disease, and damage the environment,” he continues, “ultimately leading to their deaths.”

CNEWA will begin its Warm Winter program on 1 December, teaming up with Caritas Armenia, the charity of the Catholic Church in Armenia. Already, Caritas has identified the most critical cases from among 125 locations, focusing on those living in crumbling or temporary housing, such as containers and other makeshift solutions, in both rural and urban areas.

Caritas’s network of social workers and qualified volunteers will first provide fuel to more than 700 households, rushing firewood or providing gas or electric heat through each beneficiary’s utility company. Beneficiaries will also receive food items; hygienic supplies, such as soaps and detergents; and first aid supplies and medicines. Caritas Armenia makes no distinction of creed in its care for those Armenians most in need, Apostolic, Catholic or those with no faith affiliation.

“CNEWA’s support for this initiative of Caritas Armenia, which began in 2016, is part of its larger support for the efforts of the churches in Armenia and Georgia,” notes CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar. “Despite their relative obscurity and poverty, these churches witness the Gospel in so many beautiful ways — upholding the dignity of all human life — especially in their commitment to the marginalized among them: the abandoned, the powerless, the impoverished.

“The spirit of mission among their sisters, lay leaders, priests and bishops is inspiring.”

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