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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

 

Our summer camps are like First Aid for parents who grew up in orphanages and their children.  It is the first step to healing relationships and making sure that the parents' unhappy childhood experiences aren't passed on to the next generation.

Parents who grew up in orphanages suffer from deprivation and their children experience it too.  Even if a child stays with its family (and many are either abandoned or taken from their parents) then their parents bring them up as if in a children's home because they know no different.  They don't look after them physically, deprive them of emotional warmth, feed them food that tastes horrible, and bring them up with an expectation of dependency.

Through the year our regular family sessions encourage parents to change their value system and to learn how to be parents.  Meanwhile the children are helped with their development.  

Ask any of our families who have been members for a while and they will tell you how much their relationships have improved.  It's the first step that is often the hardest: realising that what you thought was normal actually puts your child at risk.  This is where our summer camps come in, and where your assistance is vital.  We are able to cover our staff costs, but our new parents need encouragement to attend.  With your help we can pay for their food during the summer camp to make that first difficult step easier to make. 

Donating is not the only way to help (much as we welcome all donations).  If you'd like to help us hit our target in time for the summer camps, please share this report.  If you'd like to get more involved do e-mail Sarah Gale on sarah.sgf@live.com.

Thank you all! 

Artwork by one of our families
Artwork by one of our families

Our group of parents who grew up in Russian orphanages and their children are preparing to celebrate New Year.  Art is one of the activities we organise through the year to help our families improve their relationships.  Our families have painted Christmas and New Year greetings for those who have helped through the year.  We are sending this with our best wishes for 2014.  

Our New Year party may be the next big event for our group, but we are already thinking ahead to our summer camps for 2014.  Seven families have already signed up to take part and, if we can raise enough money we hope to organise a summer holiday for eight more families with teenage children.

We are fortunate to have been given a grant to cover our staff costs, which leaves us with the food bills to cover and, if we can manage it, some maintenance work on the log cabin we use as our base.  

We know by experience that this summer camp is more than a holiday.  For families new to our programme it may be the first time they have really taken pleasure in each other's company, an experience which can change their lives.  It is an opportunity for us to work with families in an intensive way to transform their relationships.  We know by experience that every contribution we make is more than matched by our parents in their efforts to improve their children's lives.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped us with our summer camps in 2013 and who has already donated for the camps in 2014.

If you admire our summer camps, why not give that pleasure to someone else.  It is not too late to make a donation as a Christmas gift to a family member or friend.  A gift of $32 will feed one person throughout our summer camp.   Any donations you make through Globalgiving.org are tax deductable for US taxpayers.  

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We were lucky enough this year to win two grants, which allowed us to run two summer camps for parents who grew up in Russian orphanages and their children. The first camp was for families who have already been taking part in our family support group for some time.  The second was for new families who we have been visiting at home, and who have not yet joined the support group.  All in all 24 families took part.  Your donations were vital.  Your generosity allowed us to provide all the food for the second group of families, which encouraged them to take part.  You also helped bought all the supplies so we could rewire our wooden cottage and make it safe for our families.  Thank you!

Our first group of parents all understand what we are trying to do at camp and see it is a really important opportunity to improve their relationship with their children.  They are willing to help with the organisation, indeed, one of our dads, a qualified electrician, volunteered to do the rewiring, so we only had to pay for supplies.  

With this group of families our main theme of the camp was avoiding violence of all kinds, emotional and verbal as well as physical.  Violence doesn't horrify the parents.  They have experienced violence of all kinds, and yet barely recognise it.  They think it is normal for them and their children to be badly treated.  They find it particularly difficult to recognise emotional violence, and think that in not meeting their children's needs they are helping them to become more independent.

The parents were delighted to find that when they changed their approach, their children's behaviour changed very quickly.  "When my children used to cry and demand that I did this or that, I tried to talk to them using this new approach.  I am still amazed - they started to talk to me too, and not just to shout at me.  We managed to agree and for the rest of the day they would cuddle up to me and be very affectionate."

We also did a lot of work on maintaining a good routine of feeding the children and putting them to bed.  Again, the parents were amazed at how quickly their children's behaviour improved.  Quite apart from this, we all had a lot of fun!  One of the highlights was when the parents all did impressions of the leaders.

The second group of parents needed much more support at quite a basic level.  They are very lacking in confidence and anxious.  One mother was still refusing to feed her 14 month-old solids because she was so worried she would choke.  Another, with a toddler, thought her child would be too frightened to play with anyone else.  Most of all the parents simply didn't know how to make their children smile.  When we asked them how they made their child smile, the only thing they could think of was to tickle them.  During our camp, they saw their children relax and take an interest in their new experiences.  We got the mothers to perform a puppet theatre and took photos of the children's delight.  They cried when we showed them the pictures of their children grinning happily.  All the parents in the group now want to take part in our family support group that meets through the year.  This means that we can follow up on these hopeful beginnings and make sure smiling becomes a regular part of their family life.  

Thank you so much for making this possible.  It might seem unbelievable to you that our parents need help with such absolute basics, but we can never underestimate the damage caused by their orphanage upbringing.  What you can be sure of is their commitment to do better, and their ability to transform their relationship with their children.

The base for our summer camp
The base for our summer camp

All the parents waiting to go on summer camp grew up in orphanages.  This year we will lead two summer camps.  One for families who are members of our support group that meets regularly.  The other for new families who have greater problems and who we help through home visits.  The camps will be a highlight for them and their children, and a valuable way of strengthening their family. 

A great deal of work is going on to get our camp facilites ready to welcome our families.  Rubbish is being cleared, the garden tidied, the new stove is being completed, the electrics fixed and other small jobs.  Since we have a lot of work to do in St Petersburg, we appealed to our families for help.  Several families offered at once and themselves sorted out who could be there when to keep an eye on the workmen and volunteers.

At the moment two families are staying on site.  Both of them have been on the summer camps three times, so they understand what the rules are for staying there and how we set things up.  They were surprised when they arrived and saw the log cabin, which hasn't been lived in since last summer, all packed up and totally unready for the summer.  However, they quickly established the routines we keep to at summer camp, sharing out the chores, cleaning up every day, sticking to a routine, feeding the children, and, most important, making sure the children are supervised at all times.

They have been looking after all the work that's going on.  They are regularly in touch over the phone to report back and ask advice.  Not long ago they told us that their husbands were happy to join the volunteers doing building work through July. 

In this way we gradually include our families in the organisational work, allowing them to take on more responsibility.  We are very proud about how they have risen to the challenge.

We have good news! In our last report we said we were waiting to hear whether we would receive a grant from the St Petersburg local authorities for our summer camp for parents who grew up in orphanages and their children.  Well we did.  The grant will cover the salaries of the leaders who work so hard to make the camps a success.  Now we have just a month to find the remaining $2,000 to cover the food, transport, art and craft materials etc that are just as essential.  We are very grateful that you have already been so generous.  Can you spare us a moment now to forward this e-mail to friends or post about the project on Facebook or Twitter.  Thank you so much!

 

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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

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