Dima 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, 2018a 50% bonus may be added to your donation up to £35 or $50.
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.”
Download our winter newsletter to find out how our Alternative Technology programme helps find different ways to communicate for young disabled people who cannot speak, how we hosted Father Lev and his helpers from the Kondopoga Parish in the UK and about their plans after their return to Karelia, how Sunflower helps Russian orphans to be independent, and how our legal programme run by Mkurnali helps save young people from prison.
We all take being able to communicate for granted, but just imagine if, aged just 15, you had had to face spending the rest of your life virtually house-bound and unable to communicate with anyone. This is the future for many disabled people like Gleb in Russia today without our help. This is why we are launching our Christmas appeal to bring them the chance to communicate.
Our Alternative Technology programme is about finding different ways to communicate for disabled young people who can’t speak and may never speak. It is about opening up the world and giving them the possibility of making friends. And it works!
Gleb is 19 and an only child. He does not speak because of a rare genetic syndrome, which affected his development from the first months of his life. He needs to be accompanied and helped in his daily life. Gleb is a sociable and determined young man and he is happiest when he is busy. But he can only communicate by a gesture or a sound so communication is critical for his development, making new friends and exploring the outside world. Unfortunately there are simply no other facilities in Moscow which can offer disabled young people a chance to be active in the community and give them a different perspective on life.
Zhanna is totally focussed on helping and encouraging her son. Since he was 10, Gleb has been attending sessions at “Communication Space”, our partner charity in Moscow. Since the start of our Alternative Technology programme last year Gleb also began using special books and software which help even more to express himself through signs, symbols and gestures and he is making big progress.
Zhanna says: Alternative communication is the most important aspect of Gleb’s and my lives today. Last week Gleb managed to explain with his communicative book that he played compunter games with someone who wasn’t familiar with alternative communication. That’s great and this means it works! So all my efforts are not in vain. And of course the specialists’ efforts – we could not do it without them.”
Since 1991 St Gregory’s Foundation has worked with the exceptionally active parish in Kondopoga to serve their poor community. During that time Russia and Kondopoga have changed greatly, but the parish continues to meet the challenges in its path. Tamara Dragadze, one of our directors, reflects on what supporting Kondopoga has meant to her personally.
Many years ago, St Gregory’s Foundation provided funding for the parish in Kondopoga to have on its land a small sawmill and a woodwork workshop (which made furniture and used the saw wood profitably too) and all that went with it. Unfortunately in time these stopped being commercially viable and they closed. We at St Gregory’s accepted that things like that happened…
Liza’s multiple disabilities have made life more challenging for her and her family. She has cerebral palsy and poor sight. When our colleagues first met Liza she couldn’t sit or stand unaided, or use her left hand. She could only play with the simplest toys, like a rattle, and, being unable to talk or express herself, she easily got frustrated and angry.
Summer newsletter 17 Download our newsletter to find out how Sunflower is preparing parents who grew up in orphanages for their summer camp, how our physiotherapist colleagues are turning distrustful parents into allies in their children’s care, and how we’ve helped formerly homeless young men to overcome disappointment and depression.
Julia Ashmore has recently returned from a visit to St Petersburg to meet our partners. While she was there, she introduced a group of 30 trainee teachers from Leiden in the Netherlands to our colleagues and pupils at Dinamika School for disabled children. They had found out about Dinamika through our website and wanted to find out what education was available to disabled children in Russia. They were positively surprised by what they found. They were particularly impressed by the equipment that teachers at the school had made or adapted themselves to meet the needs of the children, and by the facilities that St Gregory’s had a hand in providing: the model flat for teaching domestic skills, the craft workshop and the well-equipped gym. This was an excellent opportunity to introduce our work to a broader circle of young people and raise our profile and share our plans.
This New Year was indeed very happy for Mkurnali, because the Ministry of Penal Correction services of Georgia has released and sent to us a lovely girl. A year and a half ago she was arrested in Batumi and her sentence would have been 6-7 years’ imprisonment had we not intervened. However, we managed to reduce it to 3 years, even better, as a celebration of New Year and with the intervention of the Georgian Patriarchate we have managed to get her pardoned and released.
During her health check, we found that she had Hepatitis C. The prison administration had provided Lana with a free programme that will aid her recovery. However, after she was released, her free medical care came under question. Again, with our intervention and the prison administration’s help, we managed to continue this treatment for Lana. One week ago, during a routine health check, she got some great news: she has been completely cured of the disease! However, the treatment has to go on until the end of the course. I am deliberately not telling the story of what led Lana’s life to drug abuse and to the prison sentence as it is a very tragic story; however, I will tell you that she had given a birth to a child who had hydrocephalus and died within a year. We have always supported Lana when she asked for help and we tried to get her to join us, but because of her bad habits, she didn’t want to live in Mkurnali. Luckily prison has changed her completely, she has made drug abuse a thing of the past. She came to us and wants to start a new life. In her time in prison, Lana has learned embroidery and we are trying to support her so she can use her embroidery skills to support herself. We would like to raise money and pay her as an instructor so she could teach other girls to embroider, as well as buy her own equipment so she can make items she could sell.
One more proud and happy new thing that happened this New Year: as you know, every New Year we invite our current and past beneficiaries to a party. On 30th December, due to extremely low temperatures our central heating broke down. However, we still managed to have a good time and used our open fireplace to keep warm. We couldn’t fix the heating as every maintenance provider refused to work during holiday time and as we found out, the cost of the repair is very high. One of our guests and a past beneficiary, Kote, who found out about the problem, came the next day with his co-worker and fixed the heating free of charge, which made us happy and was also an amazing example for the other kids. Kote had been in Mkurnali’s care for years and had lived 2 years with us in our shelter. 3 years ago, we helped him to start work in one of the building companies where he currently works and with his honest effort is able to support himself, and now – us too. Thanks to your continued support to Mkurnali we are able to help more troubled young people like Lana, Kote and others like them, who without your help, would face a bleak future.