We watched the film The Chorus with our young people who spent their childhoods in Russian orphanages. If you don't know the film, it is set in a French home for "difficult" children in the 1940s. The sadistic head master presides over a grim institution, but the children's lives change when a new teacher arrives and sets up a choir. You would think it was clear who was the hero and who was the villain, but our young people admired the head teacher because "he stuck to his decisions", " he knew how to put his feelings to one side and didn't feel compassion" and because "you know where you stand with him". The film started a whole discussion about which role models we should follow. This is so important because already we see our young people beginning to immitate some of the harsher teachers and supervisors who have looked after them. It might seem strange, but the older ones are already beginning to treat the younger residents at their hostel in ways which not so long ago they found so hurtful themselves. With our weekly discussions we try to help our young people rebalance their topsy-turvy view of relationships.
The group sessions we hold for orphanage-graduates already living independently show us the value of our years of patient work. Having been involved with our project for some time, they really appreciate our support and are motivated to improve their own lives. Serafim said recently, "Coming here is so important to me that I run here as if I was coming to see my family". Recently we went on an outing together to the IKEA showroom so that they could get some ideas on how to arrange their home so that it is comfortable, practical and reflects their personality, rather than imitating the institutions of their childhood.
Lastly, we have been discussing gratitude. We don't want our young people to take your support for granted. We'd love to put together a Christmas card from as many of our supporters as possible, so that they realise that there are real people round the world who care for them, and that the meetings they value so much don't happen by magic. Please do give us your messages to pass on this Christmas. Perhaps you'd like to say a little about why you support this project, or about who you are. Feel free to send us your photo. We'll pass it all on. You can add your comments or photos to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SaintGregs) or send it to me at email@example.com. Thank you!