News

Improving lives and neighbourhoods

ParkhWe love a win win solution and that is what SGF partner organization, Mkurnali was able to create recently in their own neighbourhood.   Rather than choosing between a troubled teenager and the community he was disrupting, Mkurnali has been able to improve life for everyone.

Parkhat is a neighbour of Mkurnali’s.  He came from an Azerbaidzhani family who settled in Tbilisi.  He is 15 and a half years old and has been growing up without his mother.  She left him and his father and went off with another man after finding that her husband had cancer. Parkhat’s father is a good, hardworking and honest man and it is terribly sad that he is ill and does not have anyone to help him. He is unable to look after Parkhat whose behaviour became much worse after his mother left them.  Continue reading Improving lives and neighbourhoods

Announcing St Gregory’s AGM

We warmly invite you to attend our Annual General Meeting on Monday 10th June at 6pm.
This is your opportunity to meet your fellow supporters, give the Board your feedback and appoint the directors for the coming year.  As well as formal business (please see attached) we are hoping that the occasion will also provide an opportunity to discuss how the charity can continue to develop and we look forward to hearing your views. There will also be free light refreshments.  If you are not a member and would like to vote at the AGM, please join us before the meeting.
The meeting will take place at 68 Ambrosden Avenue, Westminster, London SW1P 1QG courtesy of Mrs Tania Illingworth, SGF Director.
The charity can only continue with your ongoing support so we hope you’ll be able to attend our AGM and we look forward to seeing you. For any further queries please email: julia-sgf@outlook.com or call 0203 372 4992.
Yours sincerely,
Julia Ashmore,
Executive Secretary

Mother’s Day inspiration from Sunflower

Timur finds it difficult to play
The session leader attracts Timur’s attention
Timur enjoys playing with his mother, who takes a more active role.

Dilyana grew up in a family and works as a teacher.  So why does she need Sunflower’s help to raise her 3-year-old son, Timur?

Families can take part in the Sunflower programme whether one or both parents grew up in an orphanage.  In this case, it is Timur’s father, Sasha, who had the orphanage childhood.  Indeed, he is the pride of his children’s home and still works there to this day.  Although on the surface, this family look as if they are coping well, Sunflower’s experience teaches them to pay particular attention to the way children are treated in families such as this.  As they put it, in families where a woman marries a man who grew up in an orphanage, it is “as if her social skills and understanding of safety are somehow blocked.  The woman from the stable background often submits to her husband’s initiative, and observes his rules, which were laid down in his children’s home past.” Continue reading Mother’s Day inspiration from Sunflower

Preventing abuse on Women’s Day and through the year

VeraWomen who grew up in children’s homes are very vulnerable to all kinds of domestic abuse and exploitation.  Our partners at Sunflower work a great deal on what a healthy, trusting relationship looks like.  They also support any of the young women in their group who find themselves in relationships that worry them.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we are proud to share Vera’s story with you.  She has shown great strength in recognising she was being treated badly and in standing up for herself.  Thanks to you, Sunflower has been able to support her as she makes sense of what happened to her.

“Vera moved out of her children’s home into a flat this September, but she has been a member of our project for 3 years.  We helped her prepare for the big move, and we knew that she was anxious about going it alone.  At first it seemed as if all was going well.  Vera furnished her flat, found out how to pay her bills, and was enjoying inviting her friends over to her new place.

After a while, Vera admitted to us that she wasn’t living alone.  She was living with her boyfriend, who had helped her choose her furniture and doing minor repairs to the flat etc.  It was very important to her that she had someone she could rely on.

It wasn’t long before Vera told the support group that she and her boyfriend argued from time to time.  Apparently he said that she “spent too much time with her friends and should only see him.”  After one of their arguments, he shouted at her and made a swing at her.  Vera immediately broke it off with him and asked him to leave the flat.  Before he left he broke her phone, stole anything of value as “payment” for the repairs he had done, and cut up her bank cards.

Vera was frightened and didn’t know what to do, so she turned again to us.  With our detailed instructions, she was able to report the theft to the police.  She still felt humiliated and confused, but has been working through those feelings in individual counselling and group support sessions.  Now she can value the positive relationships she has managed to build with friends, but will also be more careful about who she lets into her life.

“I don’t think I would ever be able to trust another guy if I hadn’t had this support.  Now I realise that everyone isn’t like him, but I will be more careful about who I choose.””

The young people that Sunflower supports all grew up in orphanages.  They learn to value themselves and to recognise their emotional needs.  They always have someone to turn to who will help them see situations objectively and they are able to build genuinely supportive relationships with their peers through our support groups.  By supporting these groups you are helping break the cycle of domestic abuse.

Our winter newsletter

Front page of the SGF newsletter Our winter newsletter is out now with more in depth stories of the people that we are able to help thanks to our wonderful, generous supporters.

Find out

  • how Sunflower helped Natasha adjust to life after the children’s home,
  • how Mkurnali are supporting Luka’s family so he doesn’t have to put himself at risk working on the streets,
  • and how Elya is overcoming disability to feed herself for the first time aged 19, and more.

Roma’s first home post-orphanage

Orphanage-leaver Roma smiling as he goes into his new flatSunflower, our partners in St Petersburg, help orphanage-leavers adjust to independent living.  Much of their work is done through support groups, but an individual home visit can work wonders when there is a particular crisis.  By donating to St Gregory’s you make this service happen.

One young man who desperately needed a home visit is Roma. He grew up in an institution for deaf children and he’s now studying at college. When he lived in an institution he was quite confident. It was only when he left that he began to be afraid.

Roma was given a flat, but it was a long way from the part of the city that he knew, and even after he was given the right to live there he continued living in a hostel.

“I don’t know anything about my flat. After I signed the documents I didn’t even go there. I don’t know how to get there and I can’t remember if it still needs work doing on it. I went to the flat once with a teacher from our children’s home by car, had a look and I can’t remember anything about it. I just have a bit of paper with an address and the keys.”

Like all the others, Roma is very scared of somehow being conned out of his flat by some “dangerous” people, so it is difficult for him to see his new home as secure and stable.

With Sunflower’s social teacher, Roma worked out a convenient route from home using his travel pass. They visited his new flat. They got to know the surrounding area and found out where the doctors’ surgery, the post office and other local services are. They worked out what furniture he would need, made a budget and together made a few purchases, teaching Roma how to do this independently in future. Lastly, the social teacher connected Roma with some local organisations that can help people with his disability, and helped him explore how he could spend his leisure time.

Seeing the smile on Roma’s face visiting his new flat makes it all worth while. Hopefully, he will also be able to join in the group activities and continue to grow in confidence and problem-solving ability.

It costs just £7 to make a home visit to someone like Roma, but you can see what a huge difference it can make to someone’s life.

How Luka was saved from working Tbilisi’s streets

Luka and his familySt Gregory’s supports Mkurnali, a charity on the front-line, helping take street children and young people off the streets and giving them a future.  This is a story of how their outreach workers stepped in to help Luka and his family in their hour of need.  It is told by Nino Chubabria, the very hands-on director of Mkurnali.

“Meet Luka”, Jemal said to me, and turned on the lights. It was getting dark outside and I was sitting in the dimly lit room with a computer. I looked towards the door, the guys entered the room and sat on the sofa. I was watching them silently, because I couldn’t understand who Luka was: he was dressed in clean clothes and looked beautiful. He was about 11-12 years old, not really ‘’a child working on the street’’ type. Jemal broke the silence again, “I met him on the street. You know, nothing can escape my eyes… It seemed he wanted to find work there. It was obvious that the streets are no place for him. I walked straight up to him, introduced myself, told him that I was aware he was new there and asked him to tell me what forced him to come out in the streets”. Jemal is our assistant and besides caring for the shelter he goes out in the evening to give assistance when needed to young people in the street.

He continued: “Luka told me that he had 5 siblings, that his father died six months ago. His mother was sick and unable to work, that his elder sister and brother were studying well and they couldn’t afford to work, since they had a lot to study. As for him, he was fast at doing his homework and had more free time, so he decided to get a little money from the street and help out his mother. I promised to help him. Luka then asked me imploringly: “Do you promise to help me?”

Other Mkurnali residents were also in the room. One of them said, whose name is also Jemal: “Luka, look. Streets are bad, not only will you make no money out there, but a lot of bad things happen on the streets. Do you know how many bad people we have seen there?” He then added: “And we’ve seen beating, fights, humiliation, even imprisonment,” – he continued. “We feel sorry that you have had to do this. Do not quit studying, we will help you. If “Mkurnali” does not have the funds, we will save some from our salaries and provide you with products every month. You can’t get more than that by yourself”.

Everyone looked to me for approval.

I got the phone number of Luka’s mother and called her. I told her everything and offered her to come with us to buy the products for her family. She happily agreed. We sat in my car and went to ‘’Carrefour’’ supermarket where we bought products for 2 weeks and then we drove her home. We promised to help them as long as we could. Luka also promised us to study well and that he would never work on the streets.

Every day Mkurnali feeds around 27 children and teenagers who are still on the streets of Tbilisi, as well as the 14 young people who live at their shelter. It costs just £1.50 or $2.00 to feed a street child for a day and the number they can feed sadly depends most on their income, not on the numbers needing their help.  

Kindergartens equipped to look after disabled children

Kindergarten pupilFor most children in Russia, kindergarten is the first step in a their education and the first experience of a life outside the family.  This is a stage that many disabled children miss out on because mainstream kindergartens aren’t equipped to look after them.  There just aren’t enough places in mainstream or special provision.

This term we hope that more children with special needs will have a more positive start in kindergartens, and that the staff will feel more confident meeting their needs.  Our partner organisation, Physical Rehabilitation, in St Petersburg has been running a programme particularly aimed at training kindergarten staff Continue reading Kindergartens equipped to look after disabled children