Over the last few months the restrictions on our lives have waxed and waned. We have been able to organise some group outings and face to face meetings, but at times we have had to return to online meetings and chats as virus cases surged in our community. A particularly useful outing was to an exhibition of artwork inspired by the pandemic. It was an excellent conversation-starter for talking through the emotions that have bubbled up over the last year. It may also have inspired one lad, who was already keen on drawing, to take up painting.
When group outings have been difficult, we organised a photo quest around areas of our city. To find and photograph all the landmarks in the challenge without using their phones to navigate forced the young people to use maps and ask passers-by. Borya, aged 18 said afterwards, "It turns out it's not so scary to ask passers by. Now I'm not frightened of being out and about when my phone's battery is dead. I know I can just ask the way."
Before the pandemic most of our young people struggled to make realistic job plans. Enrolled in vocational courses that they didn't actively choose, and usually don't like, they leave college with few skills. In the last year, many of the have been first in line to lose their jobs. One way we've tackled this is by taking a small group to visit Vadim, one of their peers, at work in a phone shop. He was able to answer their questions and stressed very much that when you start work, you are not expected to know what to do by magic. That people are happy to help and you can ask questions. We are really proud of Vadim. He left his children's home just before lockdown. We were able to help with food parcels and travel tokens when he had money troubles. Now he says he would like to pay us back, because he knows first hand how difficult it is when you have to live independently for the first time. He did a great job of demystifying the work-place for his friends.
Nadya, is another young person on her way to a job, we hope. Now 23, she left her children's home in 2019. For the whole of the last year she has been living with her boyfriend and relying on his salary and her benefits. A friend encouraged her to get a job and to ask us for help. To add to Nadya's worries, she had been told at the children's home that she had developmental problems, but no-one had explained any more to her. She knows that her memory isn't good and sometimes she needs instructions to be repeated. This made her nervous about the idea of going for a job.
We took her along to a doctor who confirmed that she has a mild learning difficulty affecting her memory and ability to do complex tasks.
Nadya is trained as a seamstress, but finds the work difficult. She has tried helping her boyfriend in his decorating business, but she says she is rather slow. We have enlisted the help of an organisation that specialises in finding work for young people with learning difficulties. We went along with Nadya for the first session, and she enlisted on an introductory course. Now Nadya is doing a work placement in a clothes shop and is negotiating starting a job, either in the shop or in the warehouse.
So many of you have been so generous over the last year, despite the problems you have been encountering in your own lives. This week, our wonderful colleagues at GlobalGiving are rewarding generosity. From today until 15th March, all donations up to $50 (£35) will have a 50% bonus added to them. It's a great time to give and help us meet the growing needs of orphanage leavers in our city. Thank you!