St Gregory's Foundation

St Gregory's Foundation works in Russia and the former Soviet Union to tackle the social problems facing children, teenagers, parents and carers. Our projects address the root causes of disadvantage by putting families before institutions, strengthening a sense of responsibility in young and old alike and providing opportunities for vulnerable people to fulfill their potential. Our work makes our beneficiaries active participants in improving their own lives and encourages a more charitable society.
Oct 15, 2014

How a playground transformed our summer camp.

This year we were very lucky to be able to afford a climbing frame with swings and a slide for the garden around the log cabin we use for our summer camps.  The families taking part in the camp this year all had young children.  For us as professionals, the playground gave us the chance to discover some serious problems the parents have in limiting their children’s physical activity. 

For example, the parents with children aged 2-3 suggested that their children watch what the older children playing on the climbing frame and their children were pretty indifferent to what they saw.  The parents resisted all attempts by the leaders to encourage them to let their children play on at least part of the playground.  This raised questions about how the parents spend time with their children outdoors when they are at home in the city.  The parents think their children are too small to use a playground, and even in the sandpit they are worried that they will take other children’s toys or hit a child and that that will create conflict with other parents.  So they keep their children in their pushchairs and simply push them around the streets.  The children all look physically weak for their age with poor coordination and little interest in their surroundings. 

During the summer camps, we have some separate sessions for parents and children.  While the parents were in their group, the leaders suggested that the children play on the playground.  To begin with the children approached the playground nervously, but with physical support and emotional encouragement from the leaders they fairly quickly mastered the slide, the climbing wall and the stairs.  The parents reacted incredulously when we told them about this and when the children visited the playground with their parents they behaved helplessly, falling and crying all the time.

Kostya, for example, who is two and a half, had gone down the slide and landed on his feet in the children’s group.  In front of his mother, who was constantly calling out “careful!” to him, he went down the slide, fell on his face in the grass, cried and refused to play anymore.

Miroslava, who is two, started to cry when her mum tried to put her on the swing, although she had used it quite happily with the leaders and protested when it was time to stop. 

We realised that our task was to change the parents’ attitude so that they could support and encourage their children to play.  To do this we had to first of all convince them that their children have a natural need to play outdoors.  We videoed our children’s session showing the children at first being supported by the leaders, then independently getting the hang of the simplest games, then getting caught up in it and taking the initiative to try and master new games.  The parents were amazed.

Thank you very much for your part in making our summer camp happen this year.  It was a real gift to the parents to see their children playing actively and independently on a playground and taking pleasure in it.  The parents started to play with their children and said that they were ready to exchange their very passive pastimes for more active play at home.  Through play the parents became more capable at helping their children cope with difficult situations without resorting to hitting each other or getting upset.  The children have already begun to improve their social skills, to get fitter and to become more confident.

Now that summer is over we continue supporting these families back in St Petersburg and look forward to next year's camp.  Thanks to you, we already have a little fund for next year, although there is still some way to go to meet all the costs.

Oct 2, 2014

A summer of international discovery

Our parents have always been at the heart of our club for hearing impaired toddlers and their families.  We recognise that they know their children best and influence their development far more than we can alone.  For most of our parents this is a new experience.  They are not used to being taken seriously by specialists.

During our summer break we took four of our parents to a conference organised by Hands and Voices, a US parents' group for parents with hearing impaired children.  With generous funding from the US side we were able to travel to Savannah, Georgia, and meet other parents in similar situations.  Natasha and Masha, Alla and Zoya talked to the American parents about how to support parents at different stages in their lives, how to teach hearing impaired children and other topics that interested them all.  They plan to keep in touch with their new friends as there is so much more they want to discuss.

In October this year some of the American parents will return the visit and take part in a conference taking place in St Petersburg which is centred on communication.  Our group will be presenting a paper on communicating with hearing impaired children.

Our parents have grown in confidence and are excited by the new ideas they've been introduced to.  We hope the visit will lead to new ways for all our parents to support each other and share information.

Meanwhile, our club starts up again for the autumn, and we look forward to welcoming back some old faces and meeting new families.  Thank you very much for all you have done to keep our club running.

Sep 24, 2014

How you helped Teona escape homelessness

Teona
Teona

We got introduced to Teona when she was 14. Just when she was released from the Children's shelter and she was on the streets again. Teona was selling flowers in the restaurants by night while she and her friends were sleeping in a basement of a wrecked building.

Teona started attending our sewing classes. Teona had 3 rooms in a communal apartment while the other 2 was owned by her neighbours who wanted to get rid of Teona so they could have her rooms and they didn’t let Teona live peacefully there. One day when Teona went home the neighbours dragged Teona into their room beat her up, called the police and said that Teona tried attacking them with a knife that she pulled out, out of her back pocket when the trousers she was wearing didn’t even have a back pocket.

The police caught Teona and the law court was deciding that they were going to give her 4 years of prison but we found out soon enough to get involved and instead of the 4 years they let Teona free.  In the video (http://youtu.be/Wz_Br2b4OUY), Teona describes how frightened she was before we got involved with our legal service.

After that Teona continued sewing classes in Mkurnali and stayed overnight with us too. Teona is now married with 2 children and they live in Teona's communal 3 rooms, because after the trial the police told the neighbours to be careful with the way they treat Teona. At the moment Teona cannot use the skills she learned at Mkurnali because she has 2 children to raise but she is sewing for her own children.

You played a vital part in helping Teona get back on her feet.  Our legal team and sewing teacher have given Teona a fresh start, but it was vital that Teona could stay with us while we helped her resolve the conflict in her life.  We don't turn anyone away, whether they need a short respite stay, or to make us their home for a longer period.  We can only do this if we can feed them, so we are very grateful to you for your help.

Teona wearing one of her creations
Teona wearing one of her creations

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