The world can be a confusing and frightening place for Vladik, aged 5. Sudden movements or sounds can scare him. Vladik has moderate learning difficulties, restricted mobility and delayed speech. Fortunately, our partners Communication Space in Moscow, have been supporting Vladik for more than a year. He is extraordinarily lucky to have such skilled, patient and compassionate people working with him. They are able to spot all the small things that Vladik can do, and have the knowledge and experience to be able to build on this.
Milana is two and a half and she started coming to the Club for hearing impaired toddlers that we sponsor a few months ago. She’s a good example of how this club helps deaf children in their whole development. Families and children with deaf children often find it difficult to take part in mainstream children’s activities, so it’s vital we look at the child’s needs as a whole, and don’t just focus on their hearing.Continue reading Helping deaf children’s development
Our colleagues at Sunflower in St Petersburg have a fantastic record working with young people who have grown up in children’s homes. With their support, the young people learn to understand and manage their emotions, to plan and take responsible decisions, and to develop healthy, trusting relationships. This takes time. The young people have complex needs having experienced a life-time of trauma. Several have run away from their chidren’s home before. Several are addicted to solvent abuse or have criminal records. Many of them have physical and/ or mental health problems. Vadim, aged 19, is one of the newcomers to Sunflower’s support programme. He has yet to fully trust the staff and his peers, but this lad who others were unable to help, is engaged and motivated to change.
Our newsletter is out now with stories from Moscow, St Petersburg, Kondopoga and Tbilisi. To celebrate our 30th anniversary we look back and appreciate how far we’ve come. We take stock of the extraordinary present day and look ahead to future plans. Dive in, and join our efforts to create a brighter future for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our regions.
Recently, our colleagues in St Petersburg held a wonderful sports day for children with complex disabilities. Everyone was able to take part, whether they were standing on their head, or bashing the punchbag. The physios running the day were using a framework set up by the Special Olympics, which allows everyone to learn new skills and enjoy sport, even if they find it difficult to compete in a specific sport.
Seraphim and Masha met at their children’s home. They married and Masha got pregnant. Seraphim has been involved with our programme for orphanage-leavers for some time. He brought Masha and their son, Tolya, to the group when Tolya was three months. Seraphim was such a proud dad, always showing photos of his son. He even put up their New Year tree in November, he was so excited. So it was a great shock when Seraphim died later that month.
How Masha and Tolya would be faring now without Sunflower’s support doesn’t bear thinking about. When Masha joined the parenting group she was struggling to bond with her baby. She found physical contact, or even eye contact difficult. Tolya responded by crying when he was touched, which dented her confidence further. She would say, “He doesn’t love me. He won’t look at me.“
In the months before Seraphim’s death, Masha and Tolya had been making great progress. Sunflower used play therapy to encourage more contact between mother and baby. Each week showed Masha how to play simple games which encourage eye contact, physical touching and chatting. Gradually their bond grew with Masha holding Tolya closer and interacting much more. She started to relax, obviously enjoying their growing closeness. Tolya in return became less tense and more interested in the world around him. When he first came to Sunflower he had been stiff, almost like a doll. Now he could hold his head up and look around him. He no longer cried when he was held or touched.
During this time, Masha also built trusting relationships with Sunflower’s team. So after Seraphim’s death, Sunflower have been able to regularly visit her at home to support her through this traumatic time. They are happy that Tolya is receiving the care that he needs, and are committed to working with the family for as long as they are needed.
Thank you to all our donors who help this programme survive. We know there are many more orphanage-leavers out there having to cope with difficult life events without the backup of family or an organisation like Sunflower. Having seen how the right help can transform lives, we are working to reach more of them. This is through Sunflower’s support groups and their training for professionals working with families in crisis in St Petersburg and beyond.
We put families at the heart of all we do, working as a team with parents to improve their children’s life chances. This gives us a fantastic resource, as this example from our Club for hearing impaired toddlers in St Petersburg, Russia shows.
St Gregory’s first ever virtual AGM was held on Tuesday 1st December. It was good to see members join us from round the UK, an advantage of being online. It was fantastic to be joined by Anastasia Ryazanova, director of Communication Space, our partner organisation in Moscow that works with young people on the autistic spectrum and others with communication difficulties. She was able to give us a real flavour of the wonderful work they are doing to introduce Alternative and Augmentative Communication methods to Russia.
If you missed our meeting, you may be interested to read our Executive Secretary, Julia Ashmore’s, presentation. She gives a good round up of what we have achieved this year, and where we are heading. Do feel free to get in touch with any questions.
We aren’t helping victims, we are helping survivors of childhood trauma. Our colleagues in St Petersburg work to bring out the strengths of the orphanage-leavers they support. With time, many of the young people go on to become mentors, formally and informally supporting other young people. Just watch this video if you doubt how extraordinary these young people can be when they are given the chance.
This Christmas we are all hoping that 2021 will be better than 2020. Our Christmas appeal is aimed at making sure that is true for the most vulnerable as well, and particularly the orphanage-leavers.
Usually, with our help, the Orthodox parish in Kondopoga, Karelia provides lunch and a range of activities to deprived local children – all based at their welcoming hub at Parish House. This year, group activities weren’t possible, but with unemployment rising the parish knew that the need was greater than ever.