Feature Stories

Baku Grandma is Sole Provider, but Not Alone

Natalia and Narmina, grandmother and granddaughter, lean on each other for support. Thanks to the IFCJ-JDC fellowship, they are not alone in their time of need.
Natalia and Narmina, grandmother and granddaughter, lean on each other for support. Thanks to the IFCJ-JDC fellowship, they are not alone in their time of need.

Natalia D., age 55, worked as a bookkeeper for decades until she took a devastating fall last winter that landed her in bed for 10 months with a broken vertebra. As a result, she lost her job—which provided the sole income to support herself, her husband, and their eight-year-old granddaughter. To make matters worse, she recently learned that she has a tumor growing in her liver. Fearful for her family’s future, Natalia reached out to the only place she could get assistance—the JDC-supported Hesed in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Even before her accident, Natalia’s daily survival was a challenge. Her family lives in a poor neighborhood with high rates of vandalism and violence. Their cramped, two-room “home” is on the 7th floor of a hostel, which has no working elevator and long, dark corridors that smell of urine, tobacco, and alcohol. The family’s living quarters are stained with mildew and are painfully cold during most of the year. “There’s no insulation. There is no money to repair the broken lamps. And we don’t use the electric stove because we can’t afford the electric bill,” explains Natalia. The only exception is when they heat a bucket of water in order to bathe themselves.

Above all, Natalia worries about her granddaughter, Narmina. The girl is painfully shy and frequently gets sick, owing in part to her poor diet of mostly bread, potatoes, and tea. Because the family has no electricity and limited water, nutritious, warm meals are hard to prepare. “I pray for her good health,” Natalia says urgently. Despite her own crippling medical problems, grandma cares lovingly for the young girl.

Thankfully, she isn’t the only one investing in this bright child. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jewish (IFCJ)-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union provides the family with a monthly food card to purchase groceries, which they use to avoid making the tough decision between whether to pay for their granddaughter’s medicine or food. The Partnership also furnishes Narmina with the school supplies she needs to attend school and excel in her favorite classes, which include natural sciences, math, and drawing. In addition to her regular subjects in Azerbaijani, Narmina studies Russian. “My granddaughter works hard at school and earns excellent grades,” Natalia proudly shares.

For Natalia and other parents and grandparents of the more than 27,000 children helped by the IFCJ-JDC Partnership, it is often about the little things…the day to day survival.

“Thanks to your help, Narmina has sugar in her tea today,” she says. “I’m really grateful.”

Tags for this story: Children, Elderly, Families

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