News

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

A new start for a homeless family in Georgia

Earlier this year Artur and Christine and their four children, long-term residents at the homeless shelter we support in Tbilisi, were  able to buy a small shack in a village near Tbilisi.  It doesn’t look like much, but this shack offers a great opportunity for the family to live independently at last, particularly since it comes with land so they can grow food.

Artur and Christine are trying to bring the shack into shape as a house and have already done a lot of work on it. Now they need to have basic living conditions to move in. Each month they pay towards the cost of the house, but that leaves them with nothing to furnish it.  Our assistant, Jemal, posted their story on social media and had a fantastic response. One kind woman gave them money, so that they could buy a water pump to put in their yard. (The water pressure brought to their house is so weak, they would have not have proper water otherwise.) Other people donated furniture, household items and even doors and window.  Jemal asked our neighbour, who owns a truck, if he could help us move these items to the village. The neighbour agreed to help and only took the money for petrol.

Christine and Artur now have beds, cupboards, chairs, duvet covers, mattresses, clothes, books and toys for the kids. The whole family is so happy. Now they just have to build on another room and then they will at last be able to move in and live as an independent family for the first time in their lives.

A volunteer’s view from our summer camp

Our volunteer reading to childrenYulia Bondarkova has volunteered with our partners Sunflower, to help them run their summer camp for parents who grew up in orphanages and their young children.  This is her story.

“As it happened my first meeting with the families happened quite naturally – I traveled with them on the train.  We met at the station, bought our tickets, and loaded our noisy group with its bags and baggage, little children and one pregnant mother onto the train.  It was a long journey with two changes.  There was no way of knowing that these attentive, caring mothers, who were all helping each other, had had such a hard life.  Continue reading A volunteer’s view from our summer camp

Our summer newsletter is here!

Front cover of SGF summer newsletterDownload our summer newsletter to find out more about the summer camps we will be funding this year.  This includes the unique perspective of one of the volunteers helping on the Sunflower summer camp for parents who grew up in orphanages and their children.  We also have a full report on the training visit our colleagues from St Petersburg and Moscow made to Krakow to get new ideas on helping children with complex disabilities to communicate.  From Georgia, our colleagues at Mkurnali report on the vulnerable young people that they have saved from prison recently.

An innocent boy saved from prison

Nino Chubabria explains how Mkurnali’s legal service for homeless teenagers (funded by SGF) helped Sergi prove his innocence and avoid a prison sentence.

“Sergi was charged with stealing a woman’s purse and tearing off her golden necklace in Tbilisi, on Jvania Street on the 7th of February 2018 at 19:40. This would mean a 3 to 5 year prison sentence. Continue reading An innocent boy saved from prison

Overcoming Dima’s anxiety about leaving the orphanage

orphanage-leaver DimaDima is 22 years old and he has lived in a children’s home since he was four.  This January he left and our partner organisation, Sunflower, was with him all the year.  The preparation year was an anxious one.  Dima was worried that something would go wrong with the accommodation he was promised.  When his room was ready he didn’t move into it straight away.  To start with he was only let out at weekends, which made his angry with his teachers.  He fell out with his girl-friend too because she wouldn’t come shopping with him for his new room.  Dima’s anxiety worried the staff at his children’s home so much that he was sent to the educational psychologist to establish whether he was capable of living independently.

Dima knows almost nothing about his family, just the names of his parents and that he had a brother who died before he was born.  He also found out that he has a heart condition, but not how serious it is.  He only knew “that I have something terrible wrong with my heart.  The doctor at the children’s home said that it is dangerous.  I could die at any moment.”  Step by step Dima gathered all the necessary documents, was passed by the educational psychologist, and was given his medical records.  All through he would come to Sunflower with his questions.  Each time he was given some new information he would think about it carefully. Now he says, “it turns out that my illness isn’t that terrible.  I simply have to avoid putting a heavy strain on my heart.  I was given all the necessary treatment when I was little”.

When Dima finally moved into his bed-sit, he had difficulties which he wasn’t prepared for.  He is frightened to take decisions, is scared to break into his small savings, and finds it difficult to be alone after work.  He discusses these worries with Sunflower and they are teaching him how to manage a budget and helping him find ways to spend his spare time.

Dima comes to Sunflower’s support group and is beginning to open up with his peers.  He’s also started chatting to his colleagues, not just to the lads from his children’s home.  He says, “when I first came to Sunflower, I thought that it wasn’t for me.  I kept quiet and was scared of the teachers.  Now I see how the new guys behave and I even try to help them a bit so that they can get used to it.  Before I would just think about how other people were reacting to me, but now I’m learning to pay attention to other people and to be interested in how they live and what they are thinking.”

Dima’s story shows how vital it is to look after the mental health of young people leaving the orphanage system.  Sunflower listens to their fears and we also give them the skills to tackle their problems head on.  None of this is quick or easy, but, thanks to their support, Dima will still be benefitting for many years to come.

If you’d like to help Sunflower continue their vital work you can donate at any time.  However, if you donate via our page on Global Giving between 9th and 13th April, 2018 a 50% bonus may be added to your donation up to £35 or $50.

James is fundraising for St Gregory’s, could you?

James Colston is planning to take part in the Denang Ironman 70.3 in May 2018 and is collecting sponsorship in aid of St Gregory’s Foundation.  Could your interest or passion help you raise money for St Gregory’s?
“My names is James Colston. I grew up in West Auckland, New Zealand and came from very humble beginnings.
I always enjoyed and excelled at sports from a very young age, I have tried most sports from football, to tennis, badminton, running and more recently surfing and triathlon. So sport has always been a central part of my life and something I’m very passionate about.
Giving and philanthropy is something that took my interest later in life, often I would get lost in the “how” I can give back rather than just doing it. I got introduced to the St Gregory Foundation through my best friend’s wife and straight away felt it was a cause I could align with because of the focus on the young a disadvantaged. This world does not treat everyone equally so it’s good to see chances to help those less fortunate.
For me personally the ability to mix giving with completing a half Ironman and eventually a full is a great opportunity to full full two long held dreams.”