When I joined the U.S. Peace Corps over a decade ago, I had high hopes but was not prepared to be overwhelmed by the unconditional love and joy given to me by my host family. The 27 months I spent in Azerbaijan were among the most difficult and joyful of my life. The Agayev family welcomed me as their own, and for more than ten years I have been blessed with a second family that I love to the moon and back. I left Azerbaijan in 2012 and took with me invaluable lessons about hope, resilience, and perseverance born out of inequality, poverty, and grief.
I’ve visited the Agayev family every other year since I completed my Peace Corps service and hoped to see them again this fall, but wasn’t able to make the journey because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our plans to reunite were thrown even further off course as tensions rose and violence broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the most recent flare-up of a decades-long armed conflict.
My host mother and father – Vefa and Kamil – and their three children – Rade, Vugar, and Murad – live in a small town not far from the frontlines of the violence. The socioeconomic impacts of both the pandemic and the war are exacerbating the already astronomically high rates of poverty and food insecurity in the region. Kamil is unable to work due to disability, Vugar has been drafted to the frontlines, Rade and Vefa are trying to make ends meet with work that barely keeps them above the poverty line, and Murad is still a young boy in school. I fear for their safety, health, happiness, and future.
I’ve created this GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for the Agayev family - my family. In a small town in a war-torn country, a few dollars can go a long way. Please donate what you can so that I can do for them what I know they would unquestioningly do for me - provide support and love at a time when it is needed most.
- Luke Heston
- Sharon Avnon
- Arzu Mustafayeva
- Timothy McAuliffe