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 Children  Russia Project #11238

Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children

by St Gregory's Foundation
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children
new sink for our bath-house
new sink for our bath-house

The summer camp season is almost here and we have been busy preparing for our families who will join us for a life-changing stay.  We don't have an internet connection at our base deep in the Russian countryside so this will be our last report until we come back from our adventures.  We can't wait to tell you about how we get on, and about all the new things our parents and children will have learnt.

In our last report we told you all about how our volunteers had struggled through the March snow to deliver new doors and windows to our banya, or Russian bath-house.  Since then we have made great progress towards having decent washing facilities, and at some point, access to a washing maching (very useful when we have so many toddlers and young children with us).  The photos may not look like it, but there isn't a huge amount of work left to do,

All the plumbing is in place, the sinks and showers are fitted.  We've thoroughly insulated the building, fitted the heating system and have even started on the decorating.

Renovating the banya will make a huge difference to us, since the old one was in a dangerous state of disrepair, and we are very grateful to all our donors who have helped make it possible.  For those of you who have never experienced a Russian banya, it is a steam room in this case accompanied by showers.  After a banya you feel wonderfully relaxed and invigorated, as well as cleaner than you have ever felt in your life.  Wonderful as it is, this traditional form of bath-house is also the most practical way of providing washing facilities to groups.

We wish you a wonderful summer and will be in touch when we get back to St Petersburg with all the news from our summer camp.

We've started the decorating!
We've started the decorating!
New, safe stove for our bath-house
New, safe stove for our bath-house
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Transporting the windows for our ban
Transporting the windows for our ban

They say being a mother is the hardest job in the world.  How much harder it is if you haven't experienced good mothering yourself, if you and most of your friends grew up in an orphanage.  As we approach Mothers' Day we want to celebrate all those mothers who are struggling against the odds to bring their children up well, those mothers who are confounding the low expectations of everyone around them, those mothers who are honest enough to know they need help and are brave enough to seek it.  They aren't perfect, but with our help they can give their children a safe and loving childhood, which is more than they had.

It is because we believe in these women that each year we run our summer camps, and we are busy preparing for this year's now.  We need to prepare both our families and our simple little centre, which has been shut up through the winter.  This year we have a particularly big task because we are rebuilding our banya, our traditional Russian bath-house, so that we will have safe washing and laundry facilities for our families.  Unfortunately, our banya’s stove was dangerous, the floor and one wall rotten – in short it needed rebuilding before this summer’s camp.

So at the very end of March, our volunteers took a weekend, when they were hoping to fit new windows and door.  This wasn’t possible in temperatures of 5 degrees Fahrenheit.  Just delivering the windows and doors was a heroic effort, dragging them from the main road on sledges because the delivery lorry couldn’t get through the metre of snow lying on our lane.  We didn't waste time just because we couldn't do the work planned, We still cleared weeds and overgrown trees from around our playground.

At our weekly support group for our families in St Petersburg, we have also been working hard on preparing our families for the summer camp.  We need to know that they are committed because the experience will be intense.  This year we have a particularly high proportion of families who are new to us.  We started off by visiting them at home, but now they are getting to know our other families at our Saturday meetings.

Tanya and her daughter Sonia are one such family.  They regularly cross St Petersburg to come to the support group, which involves changing bus or tram three times in each direction, all with a stroller.  We were impressed by Tanya's motivation and wanted to encourage her, so we invited her to take part in the summer camp.  Tanya is very worried:

"There was a time when I didn't even know what my child needed to make her smile and be happy.  But now my daughter smiles at me and I am happy.  There are many things I don't know how to do, but I am learning fast - how to feed her, how to look after her and how to play with her.  I'm looking foward to our first trip together, but I'm also nervous."

The GlobalGiving community has responded generously each year and enables us to run these summer camps.  This Mothers' Day, GlobalGiving makes it easy for you to give to support Tanya and other mothers like her in honor of your own mother.  If you follow the link to make a donation, simply choose how much you'd like to donate and then at the checkout, select Make this donation in honor of someone.  You can then choose a card design and write your own message to the special person in your life that you'd like to honor.  Thank you to everyone who is able to help.
 

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Liza and her mom
Liza and her mom

"For two years I have been taking my daughter, Liza, to the Sunflower centre and in the summer we spend a week at camp with other families.  This gives me the strength to carry on and gives me hope that my and my daughter's lives will work out".

All of our families come to us with difficult stories, so it it wonderful when we are able to light a path for them through to brighter times.  If Liza's grandmother had had the help her mother's found with us, a whole world of suffering could have been prevented.  We're just glad that, thanks to you, we can be here for the family now and have been able to break the cycle of misery.  

The story starts back when Liza's mother was a child, growing up in a communal flat with her mom.  Once when she was alone at home, a neighbour started molesting her in the shared kitchen.  With difficulty she managed to get away from him, locked herself into their room and waited for her mom to come home.  Her mother was, of course, horrified and tried to protect her daughter.  She spoke to the neighbour, whose wife became very aggressive.  She spoke to the police, but nothing was done.  The sexual harrassment continued, the threats became worse.  After one last scandal, the neighbours wife called the psychiatric services and got the mother taken away to hospital.  Her daughter was sent to an orphanage.  When she got out of hospital, several times she contacted her daughter and said they would be together soon, but the psychological pressure continued, and soon she couldn't cope any more.  Her daughter spent the rest of her childhood in a children's home believing that she was responsible for her mother's death.

When she grew up Liza's mother went to art school where she got involved in drugs.  She takes up her story:

"At the time it was eaiser for me not to think about my life, and so with my lifestyle I was gradually killing myself.  Goodness knows what would have happened if I hadn't got pregnant. I married the father, but then I ran away because he beat me.  Liza wasn't yet a year old when, by a miracle, I discovered "Sunflower".  It was all down to Liza.  I needed help with my daughter, but I didn't know what to do.  For a long time I wouldn't accept help, but I went regularly to their sessions, if only so that I could be with my daughter.  Somehow, they knew how to manage things so that Liza started looking at me and smiling at me.  I ended up, like my mother, in a psychiatric hospital, but Sunflower did the impossible.  They were with me every step of the way and saved my daughter for me.  I believe that you can change the outlook for your family if some one believes in you and supports you like that.  By some miracle my family rallied round me and Liza.  My aunt looked after Liza while I was in hospital and Liza took her to Sunflower.  

Everything's fine now.  Liza goes to kindergarten and, like every little girl, imagines that she's a princess.  I got a job in a jewellery studio and paint minatures, which I sell on the internet.  And we still visit Sunflower!"

We are so proud of Liza's mum for overcoming all her difficulties.  She needs us much less now than she did but we have more new families, who are just starting off on their journey.  This summer's camp will be vital for them.  

If you would like to donate so that they can have a week bonding with their child and learning from other families, you might like to know that Wednesday 16th March is a Global Giving bonus day, which means that a little extra will be added to you gift made on that day.  This project page supports the running costs for the summer camp (which the parents and local sources also contribute to).  We also aim to build a banya, or a traditional bath-house so that we have somewhere safe for everyone to wash during camp and have set up a special micro-project page on Global Giving for that.  Thank you so much for all your support.

Links:

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Tania and baby Sophia
Tania and baby Sophia

Although summer seems like so far away our parents, who grew up in orphanages and their children who visited last summer camp still speak about their time spent in the village. They share memories at group sessions and proudly speak about what they achieved as parents since summer. One of the most popular topics within this group is their new parenting skills that they learned and successes of their children. Our parents became confident and open and because of their own achievements they often recommend other orphanage-leavers to join Sunflower programme, which we are able to continue thanks to your generous donations.

One of the new mothers Tania who brings up baby Sophia on her own joined our group sessions quite recently. She is still adjusting to the new environment and establishing contacts with our team but she shared with us what brought her to the Centre:

“My friend invited me to ‘Podsolnukh’ and she said: ‘Go out there and don’t be afraid. You can tell them the truth’. I didn’t believe, but I came. Then I thought all the time that I should give my baby to the orphanage. Actually, I began to notice that my daughter was growing up and I didn’t know what to do with her, but the orphanage staff knows better what to do. I had a lot of problems. Children doctor threatened to make my daughter and me hospitalized because my baby didn’t gain weight, but I left my home that they couldn’t find me. And the staff of ‘Podsolnukh’ noticed that I just didn’t know how to feed her and they taught me. Now my girl is gaining weight and I don’t need to escape. Once I couldn’t come to class and I was waiting for next week to come here again. I thought I was going to be crazy while I was waiting for – so I got used to them!”

Tania is among those who are at risk of failure and bringing the own children back to orphanages if they don’t get help of specialists in time. Our summer camp programme and its follow –up sessions during the year will help Tania to become a real mama for her daughter.

“Often a young mother, who herself grew up in the orphanage does not see anything abnormal in bringing her child back to the orphanage, - says Elena Sukhorukov, director of the center "Sunflower". She says something like this – I grew up, and my baby will grow up, I went to school, got an apartment and nothing bad happened. It turns out that it is important to just show her - what a family is and why your child should grow up in the hands of parents in a warm and happy surrounding in their own home. What a child needs is the feeling of home like a castle, like a fortress, your dream place and the harbor. The warmest and most important place in life".

"It is impossible to get such a feeling and such home education at all in an orphanage – continues Elena Sukhorukov. - Therefore, for those who grew up in such surroundings - boys or girls who bring up their children now, it should be someone who can help them to cope. And then they are themselves begin to understand - it is better to learn to cook and feed your baby, and not to go to a social center for a dry ration, it is better to learn how to work and earn, instead of constantly asking for a material assistance. Is it better to build your family.

Tania is looking forward very much to joining our next summer camp in 2016. This is one of her wishes for the New Year. She is one of our 47 parents and baby Sophia is one of 42 children who benefit immensely from special programme which we continue thanks to your generous donation. We now raising funds to continue our work for parents - can you help us to raise £ 1200 towards the costs of the next camp?

Happy Christmas and New Year from all our orphanage-leavers – they are very grateful for all your help in 2015!

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Nadia and Kostya
Nadia and Kostya

Thank you for being a part of this unique project for young mothers who grew up in orphanages in St. Petersburg. Your constant support encourages them to continue their journey to building their confidence as parents and discovering a new and positive experience after years of loneliness and isolation of childhood in orphanages.

Our summer camps are kept going thanks to your generous donations through Bonus Days – don’t miss Global Giving’s final Bonus Day of the year on Wednesday, September 16 th!  Starting at 9am EDT, Global Giving will be matching online donations at 30% for the first $1,000 per donor per organisation.

Your support is invaluable for young families like Sasha’s and Nadia’s – I met them last May when the Sunflower Centre started preparations for summer camps and they have both been looking forward to this week very much – together with other young women Sasha and Nadia are members of our support group which meets regularly and the summer camp is a valuable way of strengthening their family. This group have different life stories from their past in orphanages but the same strong desire for a new start for themselves and their children.

Every summer the Sunflower Centre organises the summer camp in the village Dolbeniki, Novgorod area. Thanks to your generous support we now have a log cabin, spacious and clean, which can accommodate up to 25 people, including our project team and volunteers. A few local supporters helped us to build a traditional Russian stove and a playground – it is an idyllic place for our young mothers and children to spend their week together.

A great deal of work goes in to teaching young mothers to keep regular contacts with children - this year Sunflower has organised for them joint creative workshops, training of Mums and children “Paying together”, evening groups “ Parent success”, music sessions with Russian folklore, joint trips and interactive game “ The Village”. This game is an innovative and interactive way to teach families to communicate – during the week each family has their own space -home, livestock, role in the community and learn how to communicate with other families.

We ask our young mothers what did they learn to take with them to the city?

Nadia and her son Kostya, age 3

“In the camp I noticed that Kostya is interested in observing things – trees, clouds, birds and replicating bird songs and insect moves, he became much calmer compared to his usual nervousness in the city. He enjoys inventing games and other children follow his ideas. I’ve never seen him so calm – it made me think that I should change myself to give him more space..”

Tania and her son Denis, age 2

“I suffered that my child doesn’t take me seriously and is always laughing at my remarks. We started spending more time together, playing football, running and simply laughing and he began to communicate with other kids, his fear has gone and finally he began to listen to me..”

Anya and her son Kirill, age 2

“In the camp I’ve learned to keep eye contact with Kirill and spend much time enjoying our time together – I’ve discovered my child as never before. Soon after he was born, I stopped spending time with him except when it was necessary to feed him or look after him. I thought he can occupy himself playing with toys while I am busy in the kitchen or on the computer. I was bored with routine things and didn’t understand why he didn’t want to play with other kids at the playground and just stand near me. I didn’t understand why he was going to bed leaving his toys behind as if he said “You can play with these toys yourself if you want to”... This was his first step to keep distance from us. Here at the camp I am so thankful for all the advice and our session leaders and volunteers who help a great deal – Kirill started laughing and enjoying my company and playing with other children – this is a lesson for me that there is a different way to treat your child”..

Sasha and her daughter Liza, age 2

“It is such a relief to know how to keep in contact with your child – and I’ve received such big support and learned new skills from this camp. Sometimes just simply listening helps to find a solution and dissolve your anger - I feel relaxed and able to help myself and my daughter”…

Thank you for being with us on this journey and keep our support group running!

Tania and Denis
Tania and Denis
Anya and Kirill
Anya and Kirill
Sasha and Liza
Sasha and Liza
Interactive play Village
Interactive play Village
Explorer Nikita
Explorer Nikita
climbing lessons
climbing lessons
parent group success
parent group success
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Organization Information

St Gregory's Foundation

Location: Hampton Wick, Surrey - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Julia Ashmore
Hampton Wick, Surrey United Kingdom
$6,409 raised of $12,500 goal
 
189 donations
$6,091 to go
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