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.
Dec 9, 2014

How you helped Camilla learn to talk

Camilla
Camilla

Camilla and her mama are members of our Club for toddlers with impaired hearing that you have generously helped to sponsor.   Some time ago she had a cochlear implant fitted and has just come back to the club.  A cochlear implant can help replace the sensation of hearing for some deaf people.  As soon as she came back we could see that Camilla had changed a lot!  She has begun to make a lot of sounds and syllables.  She can hear herself and the other children and adults.  When she's playing with the other children she is always "saying" something.  Her mama says that at home too Camilla is always trying to talk.  She shows she can hear by cupping her hand to her ear and saying "hear!".

Camilla's mama is so happy to see her success! Her papa is also very hapy, although for a long time he didn't want Camilla to have the implant.  Now he watches Camilla's progress with interest and enjoys chatting to her.

Before deciding about the implant, Camilla's mama spent a long time talking to the other parents at our Club, watching the other children with implants learning to talk.  She talked to the other children, read up on the subject and talked to our experts.  She discussed all this with her husband, and they decided to go ahead.  It's very important that this was totally their decision rather than the professionals'.  We see all our parents as partners who know their children best of all.  The parents find this very refreshing and when they trust us the results are even better.  Now we're all celebrating Camilla's progress and thank you for helping her reach this point.  

We want to help more families like Camilla and her parents and we hate having to turn families away.  So, in January, we are starting another group on Wednesday afternoons.  To make this possible, parents will make a small contribution of just 200 Roubles (the equivalent of $3.70 of £2.30).  This means that your donations this December will help double the number of children and we will be very grateful for any help you can offer.

Oct 31, 2014

Thank you for helping Seraphim become independent.

Seraphim videos his new appartment
Seraphim videos his new appartment

In September, our group of orphanage-leavers started meeting again.  For the first time, some of our members brought friends along, which was great.  Their friends were mainly aged 20-23, the age when state care ends, and young people realise they have to solve their problems completely alone.

Don't get me wrong, the system is generous.  They house them in institutions until they are out of their teens.  They even give them a room or a studio flat when they leave.  The trouble is they don't give them any of the adult skills they need to survive alone, so at 23 many of the young people might as well be ten years younger.

I'd like to tell you about Seraphim, who is one of seven of our young people who has just taken the big step to move into their own appartment.  To start with he thought that he would have to fit a steel door and bars on the windows, he wouldn't be able to tell friends where he was living, so that no-one could rip him off, steal from him, or take his appartment from him.  This is how our young people see the world because in the children's home or at college they tell them what has happened to their peers.  Poor Serpahim didn't have a clue how to cope on his own, but he had been taught how to be terrified.

Fortunately, last season we did a lot of work on how to set up home and start to live independently.  We visited interior design exhibitions, and Seraphim began to imagine what his appartment could be like.  We introduced our group to designers and artists, and meeting such friendly, interesting people made him want to get to get to know his neighbours in his new home.  In practical sessions, he learnt how to order furniture, how to buy DIY material and how to pay the bills.  All of this gave him confidence that he would be able to cope with problems.

This season, Seraphim brought along a video he had made of his appartment.  He proudly explained how he had solved a few problems that had cropped up along the way.  Mostly he had had to deal with his friends, who had tried to scare him.  They told him he shouldn't get any furniture, because the shop would rip him off.  He'd pay and then they wouldn't deliver.  Or the delivery man would know where he lived and come back and rob him.  Seraphim stood firm, and now he is trying to encourage the rest of the group to take the step towards independent adult life.

Good parents gradually give their children more responsibility and show them how to handle it.  All too often, Russian children homes totally institutionalise their residents, giving them no choices and no responsibility, until they have to leave and face life alone.  Thanks to you, we are able to be there for at least some of the young people who will leave St Petersburg's orphanages this year.  We don't solve young people's problems for them.  We give them the skills and the confidence they need to solve them.  Then we enjoy seeing the pride they feel in becoming truly grown up.  Thank you for helping Seraphim and the rest of our group.

Links:

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.

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