Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
19 May 2017
CNEWA staff

CNEWA’s Michael J. La Civita writes: “This gentleman lives in a container with his wife, who is dying of cancer. He asked me to take a picture of him and his wife. Their sons are dead, and he alone cares for Victoria, who said she has every comfort.” (photo: Michael J. La Civita)

Today, we received more stirring images from Michael J. La Civita. He and Thomas Varghese, CNEWA’s director of programs, are on a pastoral visit to the Caucasus.

Michael described what he saw:

There is poverty, and then there is grinding poverty.

For many reasons, but I will start with corruption and tragedy, almost half of Armenia’s people have endured decades of want: want of shelter, heat, food, water and health.

What they have in abundance is dignity.

My friend and colleague, Thomas, today visited people who this past winter needed help to heat their homes and needed, as well, food to eat.

CNEWA’s Thomas Varghese visits Ophelia, an 85-year-old orphan who lives in a room in a decomposing hostel built by the Soviets in 1926. (photo: Michael J. La Civita)

Unemployment in the Gyumri region is more than 70 percent. Many of the people we visited today live in “temporary” housing since their homes and their lives were destroyed in the great earthquake in 1988.

Yes I said temporary. Sheds made of corrugated tin — some with electricity, others not. Bathrooms are holes in the ground.

This corrugated structure houses a blind father, his wife, their daughter and her two toddlers. Her husband abandoned her at 25, leaving her for Russia and a new life. That is a common story in Armenia. (photo: Michael J. La Civita)

Thanks to Caritas Armenia, families are receiving help, and I am pleased CNEWA is there in support. But I am frustrated that what we do is but a drop in the bucket.

The tears here, and the desolation, are heartbreaking.

Despite the dirt, this lady’s house is tidy. Lilacs perfume the air. (photo: Michael J. La Civita)

Read more about the work of CNEWA and Caritas Armenia, in A Letter from Armenia in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE.

Related stories:

An Unshakable Faith

Armenia’s Children, Left Behind

Shaken by the Earthquake of Life