Sandals in the Snow


Winters are extreme in the Gegharkunik region of Armenia, where daytime highs of 4 below zero may drop to 22 below at night. Many children don’t have warm clothes to wear and even go out to play wearing sandals.

Eleven-year-old Vardanush loves to play in the snow with her sisters, Eugenia, 13, and Anoush, 6. The girls live in eastern Armenia, where winter lasts about six months and provides myriad opportunities to play in the powder.

“When our clothes get wet after the play, mum hardly finds any other warm clothes to change the already wet ones,” Vardanush says. “So I had to spend some time in bed under the cover, until my clothes dry up again.”

She sometimes can find old clothes from her neighbors, but because of how worn they are, they don’t keep the children warm. The children also don’t have boots, so they wear their sandals even in the winter.

“I wish mum could buy warm winter boots for me and my sisters, and we could play outside without a fear of getting cold,” says Eugenia. “We don’t have proper winter boots, and our feet always get wet or cold on the way to school, as the whole village is covered with snow.”

The girls have come up with creative ways of combating cold feet.

“When, halfway to school, I feel that my feet are already cold, I find a stone not covered with snow, take [off] my shoes, and stand on it,” Vardanush says. “If it is a sunny day, the stone is surely warmer than the snow, so I warm up my feet a little and then put on my shoes again, and we continue.”

Vardanush’s parents, Lyudmila and Karen, never know how they will survive the six-month-long severe and snowy winter. Karen, 36, struggles to find work to provide for his family and will do any odd job to help support them, but there are many unemployed men in their village, so competition for jobs is fierce.

The family has only the small state poverty allowance to purchase food, so they subsist on potatoes and bread, two of the cheapest items they can buy. Lyudmila knows this isn’t a good diet for her children, but she can’t do anything to improve it.

They have no money for clothes or wood to burn. Instead, to keep warm, the family is dependent on the animal manure they collect from the neighboring sheds to burn in the winter.

“My daughters, my husband, and I go to the nearby sheds in summer and collect some manure. We dry it in our yard and prepare for the winter. Manure smells awful, but it is burnable, and I can ensure at least a bearable temperature in the house,” says 35-year-old Lyudmila.

The family became partially supported by a World Vision program last year, but more resources are needed to be able to fully meet this and other families’ needs, and help keep their children warm and in school.

Written by Ani Chitemyan and Kristy O’Hara
Photo: © 2013 Ani Chitemyan / World Vision



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