GEGHANIST, Armenia — “It seems that our dreams have come true!”
This is how Alya Kirakosyan put it when the ceramics lab opened this month. Kirakosyan is the director of Warm Hearth, a house in the village of Geghanist in Ararat marz, not far from Yerevan. The house there shelters adult orphans, many but not all are women; all are graduates of special orphanages for people with special needs.
There are three such houses in Armenia: in addition to this one in Geghanist, there is one on the outskirts of the capital, and another in the village of Arinj (Kotayk marz). The residents are all adults with different levels of mental disability. All three houses are family type establishments, offering permanent residence to these individuals, who, although they are not able to work to earn a living, can learn to perform useful activities. The houses have social workers and caregivers who teach the residents basic household skills; then there is therapy, including in arts and crafts, and here is where the ceramics lab comes into the picture.
The new ceramics lab is a joint project set up by the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) in partnership with the Mirak-Weissbach-Stiftung, a small foundation in Germany.
Kirakosyan described the excitement of the residents and staff: “We have been longing for this project for some time. The pottery project has not only a therapeutic significance for our residents, but will help us fulfill our goals in social entrepreneurship.”
She explained the special qualities of this kind of therapy, which make it so important. “Clay is a living material,” she said, “and has a calming effect, which is one reason why it is so widely used in art therapy. For those who have problems with manual control, clay is something that is easy to work with and does not require advanced skills.” She said the students were now concentrated on their assignments and look forward to presenting the first fruits of their labors soon.