"Our shopping with Katya and her daughter Masha in advance to the Day of Knowledge went very well. I first saw Katya's daughter. Katya calls Masha a "bird" and is very sorry that they did not go to the zoo with us recently and did not participate in our other events. Masha is such a cheerful child. She really enjoed this shopping event. Masha will go to the first form this year and she is very excited about that. Most of the time, she was riding in a shopping cart, guarding purchases, and trying all the colors of the pens". This is how Vlada, on of the social workers of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation describes their joint trip to the store with one of the families in advance to 1st of September – the day when all children in Russia go to school after summer hollidays.
At the end of August 2018, we have traditionally supported parents and children we work with within our "Family Project" to help them to become prepared for school by September 1st. We help people from among the participants of our harm reduction project who has children of a school age to buy all those things necessary for school as most of them can not afford such expences themselves. Our social workers together with parents and their kids go to the shop and this becomes a part of the socialisation process as well. We help these parents financially, but often we can not pay for everything the family need, so in most cases our contribution is only a part of the required amount. During such joint shopping trips lot of interesting things happen: children and parents communicate, quarrel, make peace, laugh, experience, choose notebooks and briefcases together, etc. A social worker can help with the choice of something or, if there are several children, look after some children while others doing shopping. During these shopping visits, important discussions and conversations could take place. We try to make the most of this time to give a family the opportunity to spend time together and communicate outside their home reality.
The main objective of our Family Project is the creation of favorable conditions for warm, sincere and supportive intra-family relations between our drug-dependent participants and their children. Parents who use drugs (or who are in a state of remission) often face various difficulties: lack of sufficient money to provide the child with everything he\she needs, lack of strength and health in order to be a fairly good parent in their understanding, a prejudiced attitude from other people. We try to help parents to cope with these difficulties and build closer relationships with their children.
This year we managed to cover by our action 13 children from 9 families. We bought them a lot of useful things for the school including: pens, notebooks, rulers, erasers, pencil cases, atlases for geography, drawing books, drawing paper, compasses, folders, diary, notebooks, pens, bookshelfs, schoolbags, sneakers for physical culture, school uniforms.
Here is a feedback from some of our social workers who helped parents and children to make the necessary school purchases:
Olya: I really admire how those parents who use drugs whom we support take care of their children, with what warmth and tenderness they choose goods for them, how they consult with each other and make the decisions together. For me, participation in the project is always an opportunity to look at those families we patronate from a new angle, to live with them for several hours together. This does not mean that there are no disagreements inside these families. No, everything happens. But it is this participation with the families in their preparations for school that is always a little exciting and reverent, permeated with care and expectation of something new.
Lema: this year I saw that for some families such joint shopping trips could be tough, some parents and children it could be difficult to communicate with each other. And I understood that we are performing one more task: we give both children and parents some kind of alternative opportunity for communication with each other – in a respectful and calm manner. During these one and a half hours of joint shopping, we have the opportunity to talk gently with the child, calmly listen to the parent and help them to improve their communication with each other. And this is a very cool moment, when, as a result, the child and the parent understand that such way of communication with each other is possible.
Also, in order not to be unfounded, we asked our participants who benefited from our action to say a few words:
Nastya: "The most needed item for school which Alla wanted was the schoolbag. But it is often when you want one thing, but something else is available. And of course all the necessary stuff – notebooks, pens, as usual. This contribution to our preparation for school was very valuable. We have not seen each other for six months, so this event gave us the opportunity to do something together. We had a good time".
Maria: "We bought everything we needed to be prepared for school this year. Including a schoolbag, a pencil case. We bought everything we need, super! Thank you very much for the stationery, for other stuff, for everything".
Svetlana: "Of course I managed to buy useful things for school, this is very important. Particularly I‘m pleased with uniform, clothes and stationery".
With each new meeting with the families of our participants, we understand how valuable is their warm communication, looks, smiles, sometimes resentments, and tears that end in reconciliation. We understand how we, social workers, should better organize space and conditions for such events so that children and their parents can better experience these bright moments. We have plannes to irganize the excursions to the museums and to visit some master classes, and also the New Year is coming which is one of the most magical holidays for children in Russia. With your support, we hope that we could be able to make the lives of those families of people who use drugs participating in our project a bit better.