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
Women 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 is out now with more in depth stories of the people that we are able to help thanks to our wonderful, generous supporters.
- 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.
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.
St 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.
For 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
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.
Yulia 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
Download 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.