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.
Sep 4, 2015

How to help Seraphim to be truly independent

Thank you to everyone who has helped the Sunflower Centre this year to support young people who have grown up in orphanages and tend to lack self-confidence. They find it difficult to integrate into mainstream society and to take responsibility for solving their problems. Sunflower helps them to address these problems, and this knowledge can be a real breakthrough moment for young people.

Thanks to your donation via Global Giving we aim to cover as much as possible professional counselling meetings, training and workshops, which help to establish friendships, and give the teenagers some mentors in the outside world who they can call on when they have to build their own independent life.

Today we will share our latest news and we'd also like to tell you about an opportunity to have 30% added to your donation. Global Giving is holding a final Bonus Day, the last bonus day of the year, starting at 9:00:01 EDT on Wednesday, September 16th and will be adding a fantastic 30% to your donations made via https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/russian-orphans/ . Matching will last until funds run out or until 23:59:59 EDT. We recommend you make your donation as soon as possible if you would like to see it matched.

And now back to our news, which Elena Sukhorukova, Sunflower Project Leader has shared with us:

“Usually in the summer holidays at the beginning of June all the orphanage residents are sent to summer camps.  The administration and institution’s staff are determined not to take any risks and to take all residents to spend their summer together without any alternative for young people, who often would like to get a job during the holidays. Our young people have a real difficulty in negotiating other possibilities for the summer with the institution staff and also have to find somewhere to live because the "children's home" would be closed through the summer. It is difficult to break these strong ties with the system which prefers to keep young people in orphanages rather than support them in their motivation to build an independent life.

This summer 6 of our teenagers spent their summer in the camp – some of them chose to use all state benefits, some young people were helped by their foster families - let’s hear what they said after they have returned from their holiday:

Taras “ I think that I myself can deal with my financial problems, no one should buy shorts or flip flops for me – I can do it myself. But where do I take the money? I try to earn where I can after graduation. Sometimes my foster mother gives me money when I am doing hard physical work in the countryside”.

Aliona “What can I buy with my scholarship money, except maybe some food on the plane? I have never flown before and might never have this chance again or won’t be able to earn money for a holiday. Why not take what we are eligible for?”

Sunflower also works with young people like Seraphim – who works and lives independently in his flat, but for whom the institutional system keeps a place in the hostel and full state support if young people decide to take the opportunity to continue vocational training within the institute. For many young people who don’t have experience of being independent or the benefit of family advice it is a real challenge to resist the strong ties of the system – Seraphim choose to work over the summer period instead of going to summer camp, but at the end he was very tired and decided to leave his job and return to the institution. “I will save a lot of money as I’ll be staying at the hostel and don’t need to pay rent or food, yet I will receive a scholarship and save it. I want to take advantage of my benefits” says Seraphim.

Seraphim is a representative of the group who find it difficult to continue their independent living. He is a law-abiding young person, who follows the rules of the institution and builds relationships with teachers easily – and is one of our young people who have been trying to leave the system for a long time. Sunflower’s task is to support them in job searches, to bring them motivation and emotional support as well as the knowledge and skills necessary for independent living and helping them avoid pitfalls.

Amongst the other young people from the project, three young girls have succeeded to get good and stable results – all three passed their exams and two of the girls have found jobs as counsellors and moved in to their new flats. Another girl, Kate, who just moved from the institution’s hostel to her new flat, finds it exciting to furnish it to her individual taste “ not like everywhere, but like I want it”.

All our young people have just returned to their studies and we are looking forward to continuing our work for their success! “

Thank you so much for being with us on this journey and giving an opportunity for our young people from orphanages in St. Petersburg to take their first steps into adult life with confidence.

Jul 8, 2015

Thank you for making it happen!

Lena and Tima, Anya and Kirill
Lena and Tima, Anya and Kirill

We've achieved our target. Our project “Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children" is fully funded! We are deeply grateful to our supporters for making it happen!

Thanks to your generous donations the Sunflower Centre will be taking ten families with fifteen children between them away for a week of intensive parenting support in the idyllic setting of a log cabin deep in the countryside. Over the years up to 35 families with 60 children have benefited from this projects. 

This project is a part of the programme “My child's world", run by the Sunflower Centre. The Centre is unusual in not giving hand-outs to orphanage-leavers. Instead they encourage them to take control of their lives, improve their relationships and solve their own problems.

Families who regularly attend activities of the programme are invited to a family camp-site, which is 360 km from the city - Novgorod region, Hvoyninsky District, a sparsely populated village called Dolbeniki. Natural conditions - nearby forest, the lake and the river have a huge positive and holistic impact on the emotional, psychological and physical condition of children and parents. The new environment-  a wooden house with a Russian stove, a dormitory with bunk beds, a dining room and a sauna, a large gardening area - helps to engage each member of the camp community and acknowledge their personal contribution to the day-by-day vital activity of the camp.

Your donations will support individual and group work with families like Lena's and Anya's, which is aimed at the emotional and psychological rehabilitation of the family, teaching essential parenting and life skills. One of the forms of such rehabilitation is engaging parents and children in art therapy sessions, in creative workshops, games and walks in the local neighbourhood.

Trust, care and a warm friendly atmosphere in the camp will help our young parents to thrive and grow and to value family bonds. Their children learn to play, develop and communicate without restrictions through a series of cultural, sport and outdoor events. Both parents and children discover the joy and understanding of a family and our specialists (teachers, psychologists) and volunteers accompany and help young families to get through difficulties and learn parenting skills.  

As a result their children’s health improves, their vocabulary expands, and they are more likely to start kindergarten. Most importantly, the cycle of neglect and deprivation is broken.

We know that many people are concerned for children in Russian orphanages, but we need to raise awareness that this is a largely preventable problem.  We've reached the target to raise funds for this year, but we'll increase the goal of the project again to start raising funds for next year.

We are very grateful to any of our supporters who can help spread the word via friends, family and their networks. You can find the latest news from our Russian partners on our website or following us on Facebook.

There is a special opportunity for donations made to our work through Global Giving on July 15th - the largest Bonus Day of the year - when they will provide matching funds of 50% of the value of your donation. 50% more for us and you won't need to pay a penny more!

Thank you again for being with us on this journey to success,

With gratitude,

Julia Ashmore

Camp Centre
Camp Centre
Jun 8, 2015

You are important as you really are

Thank you for being with us and keeping our project running for one more year. Your support and generosity help our long-term programme “My tomorrow” to build and develop the lives of young people, graduates from children’s homes in St. Petersburg.

Our programme for young people is a special one. How long does it take you to grow a beautiful plant from a seed? How much of your time and efforts do you spend, thinking that tomorrow you will see a great result of your work?

“My tomorrow” is such a project – it helps teenagers and young people without family support and very little life experience to step into life, to grow and develop their personalities and find their place in society.

This year the project offered support up to 30 teenagers and young people: 40 % of whom had no contact with their families or relatives. All of our young people-beneficiaries find it extremely difficult to deal with day-to-day planning and feel insecure about adapting to society – they receive very limited knowledge of life skills in orphanages and children’s homes. Now young graduates, some living in hostels, some sharing flats with siblings or distant relatives, struggle to identify their future path.

Over the last several years, Sunflower Centre has offered intensive courses of counselling, individual and group sessions and training with social service specialists and physiologists for teenagers and young people from very different backgrounds: 13 % in work, 13% - receiving higher education in institutes/universities, 46% - on vocational training and about 26% undecided or hesitant about their future study/work.

One of the most essential tasks of this training was to motivate and teach young people to deal with everyday life. Training sessions included talks and practical advice on how to communicate, to feel secure and self-motivated, how to stay positive and learn to communicate, and offered practical guidance on life and domestic skills. Other project activities included creative workshops, organising events, while for the summer period the project will offer hiking and other outdoor activities.

Our excellent team of Sunflower specialists (teachers, physiologists, social service workers, tutors) help young people to overcome inertia and motivate them to find a suitable job after graduating from colleges or receiving vocational training. The majority of young people had a negative experience or lack of interest in their jobs as usually their profession was chosen for them (but rather by staff of orphanages/children’s homes). At the same time the young people get confused and feel insecure about possible changes – as a result of the experience they have been received in orphanages and children’s homes – with the main idea not to move on with their lives. One of the girls, Katya speaks to us:

"Irealised that I am bored here and my job isannoying(Katia works as a cleanerin the orphanage, whereshewas apupil), but in contrast to a new job everyone in the orphanage shows thatthey worry and pity for me, are interested to hear about my life, andalso tryto pay betterwages, not like everywhere.”

This is a common position for many of our young people. They are afraid to know the world around them and prefer to “play safe” and return to familiar surroundings, even if they are capable for much more.

Our project offers and helps young people to recognise their personality and to celebrate their differences. One of our teenagers, Taras, who was a very reserved and emotionally closed young man, has shared with us how he feels now: “I feel relaxed at our training and feel good and positive about myself, when I talk to our tutor”

Our young people say the project helps them to be realistic and sincere about themselves. Thus, Semen, who has found a job, couldn’t cope with the work at the beginning and blamed the company, colleagues, and friends for his failure. As a result, he left work later on, unable to comply with all the conditions. He was offended by friends who told him that it was his fault that he could not hold a job. Semen decided to get help from Sunflower and visited our training and got individual help from our tutors. Two months later he successfully applied for the same job, where he works until now.

This January one of our orphanage-leavers, now mother of three, Galina, has started to work as a tutor at a group session for teenagers. Her tutor’s advice, personal experience and similar start as a graduate from the orphanage are highly appreciated by her students and we congratulate Sunflower and its excellent team with the results they have achieved this year.

You are important as you really are – say all our young people to each other in Sunflower Centre. We hope that your support will mean this great work can continue in the future.

 

Galina
Galina

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