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 11, 2014

How you are helping Veronika flourish

Veronika
Veronika

Summer seems like a long time ago, but we are still feeling the benefits from the summer camp that you helped to fund with your kind donation.

Back in St Petersburg, our families are regularly supported in their parenting in our group for parents who grew up in orpahanges and their children.  Within the group, it is very obvious to us which families have taken part in a summer camp: they are the most open and warm.  The families recognise this too.  We asked one mama what she got out of it and she said, "I found the most important thing for us: warmth and peace in my soul".

The other difference we notice after the summer camp is that parents take more responsibility for and are more responsive to their children.  One of the themes of the summer camp was uncovering our children's talents and helping them develop to their full potential.  We are really delighted that Veronika's parents have picked this up and run with it.  Veronika is now enrolled in a ballet class and performed in public for the first time on Mothers' Day, which is celebrated in Russia at the end of November.

Veronika and her parents have not had an easy path.  We first met them when Veronika was two months old.  Her father came to us with his baby in his arms.  His wife had left Veronika at the doctor's surgery because she was scared that she wouldn't be able to be a "proper" mother to her.  She was taken into care and the authorities wanted to take away her parents' rights altogether.  Fortunately, her dad was able to defend his daughter and she returned to the family.  Her mama was admitted to hospital and treated for post-natal depression.  Fortunately, now those difficulties are in the past.  Veronika is six and her parents love their children very much and think they are the most precious thing in life.

Veronika's dad works, but her mama is preparing to go back to work as soon as her second child is in kindergarten.  We helped them find a place for Veronika in a ballet class.  Fortunately, a generous sponsor paid for the classes for two months until her mama goes back to work.  This meant that Veronika could start her class at the same time as all the other children, which was important for her.  Her parents are so proud of her that they make it a priority now to find the money to pay for her class.

It is so important that all our parents learn how to recognise their children's talents and to encourage them as they grow up.  It is an important step away from reproducing their own orphanage upbringing and helping their children to flourish.  We are already beginning to prepare for our summer camp next year and hope that it will have the same transformative effect on another group of parents.  You have already helped us raise over $400 towards the costs of the camp.  Can you help us raise $800 more by the summer to pay for food and craft materials?  If we can raise more we will also be able to make repairs to our Russian banya, or traditional sauna, the only washing facilities we have during the camps.

Dec 11, 2014

The best gift for an orphan - a chance to succeed

Success looks different for different people.  For Seraphim, it was a job in the warehouse for a big fashion store in St Petersburg.

Recently we’ve been doing a lot of work with our orphanage-leavers on finding and keeping a job, which is a particularly difficult subject for young people who have been institutionalised.  

Seraphim is 23.  In May he’s enrolled on yet another training course, which would ensure that his living costs were covered.  All through September he thought that May would come round quickly so he didn’t really need to worry.  Then at the end of the month in our discussions he realised that he didn’t have enough to live on.  His welfare payments don’t cover his expenses and his friends are more likely to ask for help than to offer it.  What’s more, he knew he wanted to change his mobile phone, get online, go out with his friends and eat something other than buckwheat porridge. 

So he decided that May was too long to wait for more money.  At first he agreed with his girlfriend that they would help each other.  He would let her live in his flat and she would buy all the food and cook for him.  But soon Seraphim got fed up because he  “began to feel like he was back in the children’s home.  She tells me what to do and checks up on me all the time”.

It was only at this point that he started getting interested in finding a job.  He came to our group sessions and had three individual consultations to work out what he's capable of and what positive character traits he has.   We’ve realised that one of the major problems is that all our young people are terrified of meeting new people.  When they present themselves, the first thing they say is “I grew up in a children’s home”.   They find it very difficult to identify their positive traits or skills, let alone tell others about them. 

After this preparation, Seraphim got an interview and got the job in the warehouse for a fashion store.  Straight away he was given a uniform, a name badge and a pack of official documents.  All of this made him realise he could change his life around.  He is very happy in his work, has met lots of new young people and has found out more about how they live.  Seraphim still comes to our group sessions after work and shares his experiences.

“I went on my break, but I got distracted and was late back.  When I got back, they fired me.  I was so scared that I persuaded them to let me wash the windows as a punishment as long as I could keep my job.  I really value the job and am scared of losing it.  I carry a notebook with me so that I can write down all my tasks, because I find it difficult to remember them.  There’s so much to learn.”

Growing up in an institution, children and teenagers are never allowed to take any responsibility for themselves, even in small things.  So, we do a lot of work to teach them that their actions have consequences and to motivate them to take control of their lives.  It isn’t an easy learning curve, but it’s fantastic to see what a difference getting a job can make.  It’s not just about finances, but about making new friends and taking pride in achieving something that used to be unthinkable.  Above all, our young people stop being victims of circumstances and start being able to shape their lives.

Children in orphanages are showered with gifts from well-meaning donors at this time of year, but you are giving a gift which will last a whole life.  You are teaching them how to flourish as adults.  Thank you!

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.

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