We are busy preparing for September and the start of the college year in Russia. Thanks to the generosity of our Global Giving supporters, we can continue to prepare several groups of orphanage leavers both practically and emotionally for independent life.
This year we aim to attract new students to take part in the club called "Your Tomorrow", but we won't be forgetting the young people we have worked with this year. We will continue to offer support for young people who have been with us for just a year so that they can continue to make progress. We will also be identifying some long-standing group members who would like to mentor younger orphanage-leavers, and we'll be giving them some training for their new role.
Excitingly, we have also found the funds to start a mentoring programme for staff working in institutions for orphanage-leavers. Working with deprived teenagers can be immensely satisfying or hugely frustrating. We hope that by supporting the staff we can help them avoid burn-out, build stronger relationships with the young people in their care, and find more fulfilment in their work. If this works, the young people passing through their institutions will benefit hugely, both while they are in their care and in their adult lives to come.
Thank you all for your support. We look forward to telling you how our young people get on through the year to come.
When we heard that as many as one in ten young people leaving Russian orphanages commit suicide we knew we had to help. Fear and despair are emotions that all of the orphanage leavers attending our support groups are familiar with.
Taras said: It would have been better if I had been born with some mental disability. Then I wouldn't think about what the point of being alive is and it wouldn't be so terrifying to be left alone.
Fortunately, our colleagues in St Petersburg are able to build up trust with these vulnerable young people, so that they can begin to work through their problems and start to savour life again.
Wednesday 13th June, your donation will go 40% further because it is Global Giving bonus day! Please make a donation to help Taras and his peers and share this with your friends. Thank you so much.
(Global Giving USA will add 40% to donations up to $1,000 donated on 13.6.12 via the US site while match funds last.)
The school year is coming to an end for our orphanage-leavers, and we can report progress with our project. For the last three months, our support groups have been meeting once a week at the orphans' hostel at college No. 113 and at the orphans' centre Prometheus in St Petersburg. At last the young people are able to come to the group without relying on teachers to bring them and the sessions are only occasionally disrupted by staff who schedule something like doctor's appointments that clash with them.
The new arrangements are also giving us opportunities to work more closely with the staff from the orphanages. Incredible though it may seem, psychologists employed by the orphanages do not realise that their sessions with young people should remain confidential. Nor do they realise that the young people in their care need to be encouraged to take responsibility, not treated like children when they may be as old as 23.
"Suddenly I realised that I can't imagine what it will be like living on my own. I am used to being called to dinner, woken in the morning and being told what to do." Victor, aged 22
Fortunately, with more regular meetings, our orphanage-leavers have built up trust in the group leaders. They are prepared to discuss their problems and their fears, and to work towards solutions.
Over the summer, the young people will be either sent on work placements or back to their families, so the meetings will pause until September. When the time comes, we must be ready to repay their trust and continue supporting them. If you'd like to help Victor and his peers, you can either give now, or put 13th June in your diary. That's Global Giving bonus day, and donations to our orphanage-leavers project will be matched at 40%.
When we set up our project to help orphanage-leavers in St Petersburg prepare for independent life, we wanted to get them out of their children's home or hostel environment at least once a week. The problem with this is that, although the club members are in their late teens, they needed a member of staff to accompany them to the youth centre where the meetings took place. We were finding that although the young people were very motivated to take part it was not always a top priority for the staff. Activities would be planned that clashed with the club meetings. One psychologist who used to bring a group from a technical college was very keen to participate, but then her job description changed and she simply couldn't spare the time any more.
Our solution has been to move the club to the teenagers so they are free to attend on their own. We will be running regular meetings both at the children's home attached to technical college no.113 and "Prometheus", a state social centre. We are hopeful that more teenagers will be able to attend our sessions more regularly.
The theme we are working on at the moment is the world of work. This is a fearful subject for many of our teenagers:
"I don't want to get a job on my own. I'm afraid. I'd rather go with my friend and get the same job as her." Natalia
"I don't think I'll ever be able to fit in with new people that I don't know. They might all be old and they won't understand me." Valerii
We use role play to run through situations they might face in job interviews and at work so that they can work out what how to respond and go into the real life situation with more confidence.
We really value your donations, which allow us to help our teenagers work through these important issues. On 14th March Global Giving USA will add 30% to your donation made through globalgiving.org. You might like to put the date in your diary, or follow our Facebook page www.facebook.com/SaintGregs if you would like a reminder of how you can make your donation go further.
The first thing that most young people do when they are let out of the orphanage, is to go out and get drunk. What lies behind this behaviour is one of the main themes for discussion at our orphanage-leavers support group.
Olga (aged 19) said, "I wanted to understand what freedom is. I spent all my money, which I was given when I left the children's home, and I bought myself a lot of food, treated my friends, went out a lot, gave expensive presents to my friends and all sorts. Then I bought a lot of different kinds of alcohol and drank it all at once with my friends. My money's finished, but I don't feel very free."
By discussing their behaviour, to their great surprise, the young people discover their natural needs to be close to others people, for love, for freedom etc. Now our group is helping our young people learn how to use their freedom in less destructive ways.
The best present we can give them this New Year, a present that will last a lifetime, is the support they need to turn over a new leaf.
P.S. Lena and Natasha, who run the club, asked me to explain that during such personal discussions it isn't really possible to take photographs. We are sure you understand their need to protect the trust they have built up.
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