Project #11238

Summer camp for orphanage-leavers with children

by St Gregory's Foundation
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!

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
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

Summer capm season start soon - with your help Sunflower project 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.

Our orphanage-leavers learn how to become real parents for their children, to cope with the challenges and forge family bonds. Our colleguaes and voluneers from Sunflower developed summer programmes for young parents, which provides professional councelling and support - and what a joy to spend time with your child and to learn to understand what parenting skills mean.

Young families socialize and share their experience, success and sometimes failures, recognise how talented their children are and how to help them to develope their creative sklls -dancing, music and art skills.

Some of the young people have found the way to rebuid relationship with their siblings and their distant families.

We truly hope that our project helps them to value their own families.


It is a goodtime to help to our young families in  Mother's Day on May 10th with your gift aid, and get a fantastic matching of your donation on  Bonus Day on May 13th- Global Giving is matching EVERY eligible donation!

Thank you so much.This is your ooportunity to truly make a difference in our young parents - orphanage leavers's lives. I hope that you will take the opportunity.


Whether you get on with them or not, knowing who your family is helps you know who you are.  Like most people who grew up in Russian orphanages, the parents we support usually have a family although they might have lost touch completely.  At our last summer camp one of our themes was our family tree, we talked about how our parents feel about their parents and wider family and about how they can get in touch and mend relationships.  We are pleased to say that when we got back to St Petersburg, several members of our group were able to start renewing links with their birth families.

Six months before the summer camp, Elena found her birth mother.  They talked on the phone and Elena told her mother all she knows about her life since she went to live in a children's home at birth.  She asked if they could meet so she could "see if there was a likeness", but her mother was scared and refused to meet.  Elena was very angry and didn't want to talk to her any more.  In our sessions at the summer camp she was able to work through her feelings, and by the end, she said she understood why her mother might have refused and was ready to wait until her mother could talk to her.  Three months after the summer camp was over, Elena's mother called her and asked to meet her and Elena's son, her grandson.

Valeria was in a children's home from the age of five when her parents died. She was the youngest daughter in the family and her relatives decided to put her in the home.  They took her at weekends, but her brother and sister and the rest of the family teased her because she was an "orphan".  As she grew up Valeria started to refuse to go to her family at weekends and lost touch with them.  She felt very angry towards them.  After our session at the summer camp, she tracked down her middle sister and got back in touch.  Now they often spend the weekends together and her sister comes round to play with Valeria's daughter.  Valeria is very happy that she took the initiatie to renew the relationship and says that she and her sister are very close.  

Finding out where they come from and making peace with the family that abandoned them helps our group find peace within themselves.  It also helps them to think more positively about the whole idea of family and about themselves.  All this makes it easier to bring up the next generation understanding their past and secure in the knowledge that it won't be repeated. We want to thank you for setting the ball rolling by contributing to our summer camps and giving us space to work through these big issues.

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Organization Information

St Gregory's Foundation

Location: Crewe, Cheshire - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Julia Ashmore
Hampton Wick, Surrey United Kingdom