New shoes instill confidence in young Armenian girl

Everyday 63-year-old Grandma Sirush Manukyan walks around her neighbourhood- not to socialise or sustain her fitness, but to search through garbage heaps to find fabrics, wooden and plastic scraps – anything that is burnable – to fill the wood-burning stove in her family’s house.Her findings are like treasure because they will help to ensure her three small grandchildren will not succumb to the cold autumns and long-lasting winters in Gyumri city, the second largest city of Armenia.

Grandma Sirush lives with her son’s family, Mush Manukyan, 35, his wife Haykush, 31 and their three children Siranuysh, 7, Davit, 6 and Sara, 4. The family lives on the fourth floor of the Sheram District of Gyumri. Sheram District was built in haste after the devastating earthquake of 1988. The houses in Sheram are in poor condition with leaking roofs, paper thin walls with no insulation from the cold and windows that invite in the powerful winds that are common in this area.

“The children are very small, and I need to do everything to protect them from getting cold”, says Grandma Sirush.

...with the recent 40% dramatic increase of the prices for gas, we no longer can afford to heat the house with it The houses in Sheram had even lacked access to a gas supply, but when World Vision started its operations in Gyumri, one of its first projects was the gasification of the whole district.

“We have gas in the house, but with the recent 40% dramatic increase of the prices for gas, we no longer can afford to heat the house with it”, explains Haykuhi, the children’s mother.

The whole family lives on a monthly poverty allowance of 25,000 AMD (US$61). Just a few days ago Sirush turned 63, which is the retirement age for women in Armenia. The celebration is therefore twofold – being thankful for the health of their grandmother and anticipating the monthly pension of 10,000 AMD (US$24 USD) that Sirush will receive and share with the family.

“With this money we hardly buy food for our children, sometimes we are in a dilemma- whether to buy necessary clothes or shoes for the children, pay for the electricity or buy food. It is so hard to live on such a small amount of money”, -says Haykuhi.

She never asks for anything, but I see the wish in her eyes “Sometimes, when I go to meet Siranuysh from the school, I see how she envies other girls who are dressed up in warm and colourful clothes. She never asks for anything, but I see the wish in her eyes”, says Haykuhi. “It is a real heartbreaking scene for any parent”, she adds.

Mush Manukyan, the children’s father, also feels desperate about the family’s situation. “He is out every morning, trying to find any odd job”, explains Grandma Sirush, “Sometimes he comes back with a happy face; I know that he was successful in earning something that day. But most often he is back late with a couple of dry branches which he collected from the neighbouring fields. It means he was unable to find anything during the whole day”, she continues.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that Davit suffers from Autism, and he is unable to speak. “In case I put aside any extra money, I take him to the hospital, where he receives the professional services of the psychologist and speech therapist. These services are free, but I need money to pay for the transportation”, explains Haykuhi.

Notwithstanding the family’s situation, Haykuhi keeps on dreaming of a better future for her children. “I know that my children have great potential and I need to nurture it”, she says.

I know that my children have great potential and I need to nurture it Support to the family comes from World Vision Armenia’s Gyumri Area Development Programme (ADP), with all three children included in the “Child Sponsorship” programme.

Stationery and warm clothing that the children receive during Christmas and Easter celebrations offer great support to the family.

The last visit by World Vision staff was of special joy to Siranuysh. She received shoes from World Vision, which will enable her to participate in the sport and dancing classes at school.

“She had nothing to wear for her sport classes, but now with these shoes she will no longer be ashamed”, said Haykuhi.

“I was planning to buy her shoes for the sport classes with the poverty allowance we will receive this month. Thankfully, I can use the money to take Davit to hospital to receive professional services”, Haykuhi continues.

Siranuysh quickly tried on her new shoes and began running along the house, pleased that they fit perfectly for her sport and dancing classes.

When asked whether she dreams of becoming a dancer, she smiles shyly, “I will become a dancer, or… maybe a singer. I don’t know”, says Siranuysh smilingly.