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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

Olga has three children, two girls and a boy.  She grew up in a children's home and so did her mother.  This is why she found it difficult to bond with her children.  With her two boys she says, “I was on auto-pilot.  I didn’t feel anything towards them.”  Bonding with her third child was easier, and now she has a much closer relationship with them.  She is still working hard to improve her family life.

Olga recently agreed to have her story published in a booklet we wrote to help social workers and psychologists understand the outlook of parents who grew up in orphanages.  She really hopes that this will help them help other people in her situation.  We hope her story will also give you an idea of how our summer camps, which you have contributed so generously towards, help our families make long-term changes in their lives.  Olga and her children also comes to our family support centre through the year.  She describes the long journey she's taken to get to the point where she can ask for help and realise she isn't alone.

"After I left the orphanage I went to study so that I wouldn't fall in with a bad crowd.  I got my certificate and then I started another course because I didn't have anywhere else to go.  I wasn't given a room straight away.  When I got my room I already had my son.  But what to do with him? Thank you to the neighbour who told me I should wash him.  Every time there was a problem I called an ambulance.  I felt abandoned and then I had another son.  My husband drank and worked and I was left alone with the children.  I didn't find out straight away when I was pregnant the third time, but I was very glad when I found out it would be a girl.

I often wanted someone from the centre to come and ask me how they could help me.  I had so much pain stored up inside and I wanted to tell someone about it.  The first time I went on the summer camp it was really difficult.  I wanted to run away and hide, but I had to solve my own problems.  I wanted to open up, but instead I got frustrated and behaved badly.  I couldn't openly ask for help.  The second time was easier and I noticed more about how I was behaving.  One day, my daughter was being naughty at lunch.  She wouldn't eat and nothing I did was right.  So, I took her and left and we both went hungry.  I expected one of the specialists to come after me, but nobody did.  My daughter didn't understand what was happening and didn't say sorry and I didn't know what to do.  At home I would have simply ignored her or shouted at her, but here you couldn't do that.  I dreamt about this day.  It really bothered me, but I didn't want to admit that I really needed help, that I didn't know what to do.  I've got three children, but I never learnt how to ask for help.  Instead, I run away and clam up and expect someone to come after me and offer to help.  It took me three years taking part in the programme to realise that I need help and that I can ask for it openly.

I've learnt such a lot from the programme.  I've learnt how to behave with my daughter, how to deal with her when she's being naughty, how to respond when she asks for something, how to look her in the eye when I talk to her, and how to play with her.  I've missed out on so much with my sons.  I should have started when they were younger because it's much more difficult to start now. I really love watching my daughter laughing and enjoying what we have between us.

We have so much pain inside that we can’t deal with it alone, nothing’s like we think it is.  We’re grown up but we need someone to listen to us and free us from what we’ve lived through.  We also have to learn to ask for help, but I still find that very difficult.”  

This year's summer camp starts soon.  Look out for our report in about a month's time when we'll tell you how our families have got on.  If you are UK-based, you might like to know that between 1st and 8th September GlobalGiving UK are adding 50% to donations.  If you'd like to be reminded nearer the time, please e-mail Sarah Gale ( or "like" our Facebook page.

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Summer is on its way and we are actively preparing for the summer camp we'll be leading, with your help, for parents who grew up in orphanages and their young children.  

Although the camp itself won't take place until August, we have already selected the families, who we think will benefit the most from taking part.  It is important that all the families are motivated and willing to work hard to improve their relationships.  We can give them opportunities and support, but only they can change how they relate to their children.

Last year, thanks to a generous donation, we were able to rebuild the traditional stove in our log cabin.  This has freed up space for an extra bunk bed so we can now accommodate 25 people.  This year ten families will take part, plus of course the leaders and volunteers. 

Between now and the camp itself we will meet each family twice to help them prepare.  The first time is a group meeting to tell everyone what they need to bring with them and what their responsibilities are during the camp.  We use a tried and tested structure to the camp that encourages the parents to take responsibility for their own children and helps everyone get on together as a group.  It's very helpful if everyone understands this before they arrive.  The second meeting is on an individual basis.  We discuss with each family what they are hoping to gain from the summer camp and what support they will need.

Meanwhile, the log cabin is being prepared for the summer camp.  The thaw has only just arrived in the Valdai hills (it is just 48 degrees F/9 degrees C at the moment), so we have put the heating on to dry out the building before our families arrive.

Thank you again for donating and helping make our summer camp possible.  Look out for our next report when we'll tell you how our families got on during the camp.

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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

Thank you all! 

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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 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.

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Organization Information

St Gregory's Foundation

Location: Hampton Wick, Surrey - United Kingdom
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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