An Armenian Red Cross project to help elderly refugees has resulted in some unexpected friendships. The Psycho Social Care for Elderly Refugees project, started in May 1999, assists seniors cut off from society in 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.
“It is amazing how they long for our visits,” says volunteer Emma Khachatrian. “They need someone who can listen to them and comfort them, to make sure they are not alone.”
74-year-old Victoria Nasibian spends most of her time looking after her bed-ridden husband, Agasi, 76. They fled the conflict at home five years ago leaving behind their house, 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. 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 even if the project ends, they will continue to visit their old friends.