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 2, 2013

Your support continues beyond the orphanage

Confused and angry is how many of our young people feel.  Over the summer and in September, many of the young people who used to come to our support group have left the institution where they live, either to move to another one or to start their independent life.  While they lived in the institution the staff strictly controlled their every action. Now that they have left, these people who yesterday were part of their life don't want anything to do with them.  For them it feels like yet another abandonment.

Fortunately, thanks to you, we can continue to be there for these young people as they go through this difficult and risky period.  The authorities won't allow them to continue coming to our support groups within the orphanage, but we are finding other ways of reaching out to them.  Over the summer we have invited them to join in with our activities for older orphanage-leavers who have children.  Some of our parents on our programme have grown close to members of our younger group and could become mentors to them.  We are planning to give them training to help them become successful mentors.  Our social worker will also be making regular visits to our young people now living independently who have asked for support.

Meanwhile, we are setting up a new group in the institution for 10 young people who the authorities tell us are particularly troubled.  At this stage we are still getting to know each other and building up their trust.    With your help we look forward to supporting them through the coming years.

P.S. Our young people don't always like having their photo taken so I'm afraid we don't have any new pictures to show you.

Sep 24, 2013

Thank you for making our summer camps a success!

We were lucky enough this year to win two grants, which allowed us to run two summer camps for parents who grew up in Russian orphanages and their children. The first camp was for families who have already been taking part in our family support group for some time.  The second was for new families who we have been visiting at home, and who have not yet joined the support group.  All in all 24 families took part.  Your donations were vital.  Your generosity allowed us to provide all the food for the second group of families, which encouraged them to take part.  You also helped bought all the supplies so we could rewire our wooden cottage and make it safe for our families.  Thank you!

Our first group of parents all understand what we are trying to do at camp and see it is a really important opportunity to improve their relationship with their children.  They are willing to help with the organisation, indeed, one of our dads, a qualified electrician, volunteered to do the rewiring, so we only had to pay for supplies.  

With this group of families our main theme of the camp was avoiding violence of all kinds, emotional and verbal as well as physical.  Violence doesn't horrify the parents.  They have experienced violence of all kinds, and yet barely recognise it.  They think it is normal for them and their children to be badly treated.  They find it particularly difficult to recognise emotional violence, and think that in not meeting their children's needs they are helping them to become more independent.

The parents were delighted to find that when they changed their approach, their children's behaviour changed very quickly.  "When my children used to cry and demand that I did this or that, I tried to talk to them using this new approach.  I am still amazed - they started to talk to me too, and not just to shout at me.  We managed to agree and for the rest of the day they would cuddle up to me and be very affectionate."

We also did a lot of work on maintaining a good routine of feeding the children and putting them to bed.  Again, the parents were amazed at how quickly their children's behaviour improved.  Quite apart from this, we all had a lot of fun!  One of the highlights was when the parents all did impressions of the leaders.

The second group of parents needed much more support at quite a basic level.  They are very lacking in confidence and anxious.  One mother was still refusing to feed her 14 month-old solids because she was so worried she would choke.  Another, with a toddler, thought her child would be too frightened to play with anyone else.  Most of all the parents simply didn't know how to make their children smile.  When we asked them how they made their child smile, the only thing they could think of was to tickle them.  During our camp, they saw their children relax and take an interest in their new experiences.  We got the mothers to perform a puppet theatre and took photos of the children's delight.  They cried when we showed them the pictures of their children grinning happily.  All the parents in the group now want to take part in our family support group that meets through the year.  This means that we can follow up on these hopeful beginnings and make sure smiling becomes a regular part of their family life.  

Thank you so much for making this possible.  It might seem unbelievable to you that our parents need help with such absolute basics, but we can never underestimate the damage caused by their orphanage upbringing.  What you can be sure of is their commitment to do better, and their ability to transform their relationship with their children.

Jul 25, 2013

Mother's death means more mouths to feed

A week ago, the single mother of one of the long term residents of our shelter for homeless teenagers died. Her son's name is Bachi and she leaves him and five sisters, who had nowhere to go but to our shelter. As they are under age we will be looking to see what options the State might offer and then make a decision as to whether the girls would be better off with the option or not. If unsatisfactory, of course we will continue to care for the girls ourselves. We have started on their rehabilitation (alas the family and school/no school life they had had was extremely dysfunctional).

Thank goodness that, with the help of St Gregory's Foundation, we have our own house so that these girls have somewhere to go. Our shelter is only a family sized house, now rather overcrowded, but it is better than the streets.

So here are the residents of Mkurnali House:

  • Bachi's 5 newly arrived sisters
  • 4 girls, the long term residents we know
  • The four girl's 5 babies we know
  • 8 long term boy residents, most at work but needing to live 'at home' (ie our shelter)
  • the newly released (from prison) brother of one of the long term residents
  • 9 boys released in a recent government amnesty. 11 were released in total, but two were found jobs with a furniture factory and have been moved to a province by the company to work on a very large order for Batumi, the resort on the Black Sea.

Our policy to never turn teenagers away when they are in desperate need is being stretched to the limit. We are so grateful to all our supporters, both in Tbilisi and those we have never met around the world, and we trust that you will share our compassion for these newly orphaned children. Can you donate today to help us feed them?

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