Jun 26, 2018

THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CANNOT RUN AWAY FROM

Dasha with fund's officer
Dasha with fund's officer

“I hoped you would not come. I want to stay at home”. With these word Dasha* met our social counselors. In December, she ran away from the orphanage, and her whereabouts were unknown for two weeks. During this time, the 16-year-old girl travelled 140 km by public transport and by hitchhiking and made it to her home town.

Police issued a missing person alert. The girl’s relatives, acquaintances and friends at the orphanage were contacted, but all efforts were in vain — Dasha had managed to stay out of the view.

The only person with whom she got in touch was our psychologist, Kristina Yakusevich. The psychologist had been working with Dasha on a Book of Life to restore her family’s history. Kristina is one of few people whom Dasha trusts and values. That is why every few days the girl would send Kristina short texts: “Everything is fine”, “I’m at my friend’s”. For two weeks, her whereabouts were unknown.

Then one day the girl texted that she was going to visit her parents, and Kristina asked her to wait for the Fund’s counselors and to come back to the orphanage.

The Fund’s counselors — Alina Kiprich and Pasha Isachenko, who on that day were visiting a family they supervise in Dasha’s parents’ neighborhood — drove to  Dasha’s house. Unfortunately, it was snowing heavily and the trip took them for over four hours. So they were not sure if Dasha would still be at home when they arrive.

But the girl was waiting for our colleagues. She was unhappy to part with her parents. With the words: “I hoped you would not come. I want to stay at home,” she got into the car.

Back at the orphanage, the girl wrote an explanatory report and went to her room, casting a sorrowful and curious glance at the gates.

She did not say exactly why she had run away. But most runaways have the same reasons: lack of individual attention, routine, closed premises, homesickness, and the unquenchable desire to see real life …

To help orphans compensate for the lack of communication with the external world and prepare them for independent life on their own, we provide them with comprehensive support through our projects. For example, we search for individual mentors to prepare children for real life (Let’s Be Together project) and with great hope we try to restore children’s relations with their birth families under the Stick Together program, etc.

Because there are some things you cannot run away from — a desire to be free and to have a family.

You can support the Fund by donating to one of the programs.

*the child's name has been changed

Mar 2, 2018

Tree without roots

Sveta
Sveta

Sveta is fifteen. She has been living in an orphanage for a year now, studying at school, and getting used to live in a new environment. She is learning to understand who she is.

Sveta does not remember herself before being three years old, but afterwards she remembers her adoptive mother, strict and demanding. Loved. Sveta had her own clothes, toys and school. Everything was normal- like in every family. Everything changed later - from a nice cheeky girl she grew into a teenager with scandals, bad marks, nasty behavior and other signs of this awkward age. This was different from the what her adoptive mother thought about how her daughter would grow up. She took the girl to the orphanage, telling everyone about "disgusting behavior", "bad genes" and "potential alcoholism".

"What we are having here is not even a return," says Christina, a psychologist at Deti Nashi (Our Children) Charity Fund. “A child who grew up in a family, who almost didn’t experience life in orphanages, founds herself in an orphanage being almost an adult. Can you realize the degree of damage? Sometimes parents (not very smart ones) frighten their children, "If you behave badly, I'll take you to an orphanage." But in Sveta’s case this came true in real life".

Deti Nashi Fund tried to work with the girl's former adoptive mother, but did not make much progress. Then the psychologist and social worker of the fund decided to try to find the girl’s birth parents. Specialists believe that it is very important for a child to know about real parents in any case and ideally, to know that they love him or her and took care of them before. Even if the situation has changed now and they cannot be together anymore.

One day during Sveta’s session with psychologist, Christina asked her to paint a tree - this is a simple exercise that helps to realize a person’s place in this world. Sveta drew a tree without roots.

Sergei met Mary, Sveta's mother, after placing an ad to the local newspaper. The girl responded and they started correspondence. They wrote each other couple of times and then Sergei invited her to come.

Maria moved to Sergei with her son and after some time Sveta was born. And then in just one month the man got fired from the factory, Maria had a stroke, their house was burnt. Sergei gave up and started drinking. They lost their parental rights in one year.

"My mother was deprived of parental rights when I was about two years old too," Sergei says easily. "Masha is also from orphanage."

The man is now working as a tractor driver at a local farm practically "for food". In Sergei and Maria’s house there is no heating, frankly speaking there is no real house in fact: just collapsed walls, you can only stay inside in the outwear. Clothes are drying on the ropes, Sergei washes them as Masha can’t use one hand. The drying goes badly, clothes get covered with ice.

Russia has almost no system of social support for people facing difficult life situations, so they do not have any abilities or resources to restore their lives. They give up almost immediately, and all their past family experience only reinforces this model. When Mary lost her parental rights, she and Sergei tried to find out how to reinstate the rights, but their daughter was already placed into foster care. It is clear from the conversation that the man does not see the difference with an adoption, so he and his wife decided that they had lost their child forever.

"If you do not change the system, do not work with such families, you get an endless reproduction of the orphanhood," says Christina Yakusevich. She often saw how former orphanage children did not resist, when the children were taken away from them. They consider this to be normal because they did not know anything else in their lives.

We are leaving the Sergei’s village; there is a long way and a long work ahead. Fund staff Alina (counselor of children at Deti Nashi) and Christina will help Sveta and other children in two orphanages in the Smolensk region, where Deti Nashi work. They will drive for hundreds of kilometers more, visiting their families, talking, explaining and showing the right way. Sergei and Masha need to come up with an action plan, to restore documents, to come to agreement with the supervisory authorities so that they could finally see their daughter. The Fund does not do this for birth parents, people have to go all the way on their own. But not alone: the staff of the Fund will be by their side now.

"Do you know what these medals are?"

Alina is holding a Sveta's great-grandfather’s photo, which her parents gave to the girl. A wide smile, short-cropped temples and a guards badge on his chest. Order of the Red Star and two medals "For Courage". During the Great Patriotic War Sveta’s great-grandfather rose to the commander of the saber squadron. Another picture - great-grandmother, with exactly the same dimples on the cheeks as Sveta has. She is a real beauty. It is important for any person to know his or her history, but it is vital for a child from an orphanage who is growing separately - both from the family and society. Usually a teenager takes after someone from the family. Now Sveta has got a family of great-grandmother and great-grandfather, a hero and a beauty.

She now has the people to be be proud of.

"Have you ever moved cities”?, Alina is taking a sip of coffee at the gas station, it's quite dark, we have been traveling all day from one side of the Smolensk region to another, and will take about two hundred kilometers for the Fund specialists to get home. “I’ve noticed that if you are alone in a new city, without relatives and without friends, even if you rarely talked to them and did not have time to meet, you feel especially lonely. And our children are alone not only in this city but in the whole world. Someone once said, "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."

Memories of your parents, the understanding that you loved and were loved, the opportunity to communicate with them - these are the "roots" that Sveta did not draw in the office of psychologist. This is not a story about returning to the family, her parents have too many difficulties to raise a daughter. But communicating with them gives the girl an opportunity to feel needed and loved, it helps a her to become a balanced individual, to learn and successfully build relationships with other people, peers and adults. Years of observation of how the life of the children develops after they graduate from the orphanage showed that those who had the opportunity to communicate with their relatives were more open to participating in the fund's projects. Those who participated in the projects were more successful after graduation, better adapted to adult life, which means that the orphanage circle was torn, not repeated by their children.

Deti Nashi Fund must pay for the work of psychologists and Homelike project’s social educators. They look for relatives and support the communication of children with them. Some money is also needed for transportation costs, as the fund's employees travel a lot throughout the Smolensk region in search of relatives of kids in the orphanages. Please support the project, and if possible, start a small regular donation.

Thank you.

*the child's name has been changed

Dec 5, 2017

A separation due to work

Frequently, the reason for removing a child from a family is that the parents are unemployed, but the following story is about how work became the reason for separation.
Vadim entered an orphanage a year and half ago. His mother, Irina, had a job as a milkmaid. She left for work between 4 and 5 in the morning, leaving her three-year-old son alone until noon. The situation in the evening was similar. The woman also drank alcohol occasionally. Neighbors concerned about the lack of proper care for the child turned to child protective services.

The boy was three years eight months old when he arrived at the orphanage. His mother visited him regularly for the first six months but then stopped coming. Vadim was initially placed in the institution on a temporary basis, but because Irina was not visiting him, the question of terminating her parental rights was raised.
But then experts from Homelike project took on the case, and Pavel, our social worker, visited Irina at home. Talking with Irina, Pavel realized that Irina missed her son very much, but she could not get by without working and she had no other job option. Also, there was no one to help her. Irina lived alone and did not interact with her neighbors. Even when the Fund gave her a way to pay for a babysitter who could take the child to kindergarten and bring him home, local residents refused to help.

Having established a channel of communication with Irina, we negotiated with the specialists at child protective services, and the child’s stay in the institution was extended by another six months without the mother losing her parental rights. After talking with a specialist from the Fund, Irina began visiting her son again. And the orphanage staff later gave her permission to take him home for holidays and weekends.
Oksana Reshetova, an educational psychologist at the orphanage, worked one-on-one with Vadim’s mother. This helped Irina make changes in her life. She has now changed jobs and has begun receiving support. She took her son home in August and enrolled him in a kindergarten.
After living without his mother for a year and a half of his life, Vadim is now five years old. That is quite a long while at his age, but we hope time will be on their side. Our experts will keep in touch with the family!

 
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