Our colleagues in Russia have had serious adjustments to make in recent weeks. Some have had grants cut with no warning. All have had access to Facebook blocked. For some this was a very active way of communicating with the people they helped directly, and also with people from further afield who looked to them for advice. The Club for hearing impaired toddlers is filling this gap by using WhatsApp and being available on the phone to families that need advice in between sessions.
The Club has also welcomed a refugee family from Ukraine. Anastasia and her son Nazar are both deaf. They have found a warm welcome at the club and the support from other parents is very important for them. They left home without Nazar’s hearing aid, but the Club has been able to help them. When children get a cochlear implant fitted, parents donate the hearing aids that they no longer need. This means the Club has been able to give Nazar a hearing aid straight away.
Vlad started coming to our support group for orphanage-leavers in St Petersburg a year ago with his friend, Boris. From the start he engaged really well with all the activities. Our colleagues invited him to take part in the summer camp, which he did with enthusiasm. Again, he took part in everything, was very helpful and was very open in all discussions.
Vlad knew that he could stay in touch over the summer. A few weeks after the camp, our colleagues got a call from him to say that he was moving out into his own flat. He said, “Everything’s fine. I just walk around and admire my place.” Over the next few weeks he kept in touch and was looking forward to restarting the group sessions in September.
So when September came, it was a surprise to our colleagues when Vlad didn’t appear and stopped taking calls. They got in touch with his college, who said that everything was fine and that he was going to classes and living at their hostel now.
Thank you to all everyone who has sent us messages of support at this difficult time. Of course, our thoughts and prayers are with those suffering in this humanitarian crisis. We are not in a position to meet their needs directly, but we will be donating half the proceeds from our next fundraising event to Save the Children’s Ukraine appeal. We chose Save the Children because of their experience in responding to crisis situations and our shared focus on children and families.
Meanwhile, we continue to support our projects in Russia, conscious that the very vulnerable people we help will be hit very hard by the current inflation. We are proud of our long-lasting and fruitful relationships with our partners. The work we have done together has always been, and continues to be, resolutely a-political.
At present we continue to have a limited number of ordinary bank payment routes open to us. If those are closed by sanctions, we will explore other legal avenues to ensure donations reach our projects. We are speaking to the Charity Commission for guidance. We will always keep you informed if our situation changes.
We are delighted that on 13th October our Patron, His Royal Highness, Prince Michael of Kent, visited the Sunflower Centre in St Petersburg to find out about their flagship programmes at first hand. The Sunflower Centre focuses on providing psychological support for parents who grew up in orphanages and for teenagers leaving orphanages in St. Petersburg.
Almost all the children growing up in Russian children’s homes have living parents. The are sometimes called “social orphans”, but they are not orphans in the true sense. Their parents have been judged unfit to look after them, and they have been taken away from them for their own protection. If we think about them as “children in care”, then we can be more clear-sighted about how to help them. Let’s support organisations that really make a difference instead of giving to the “orphanages” that are part of the problem.
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.
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.
Christmas cards and gifts for charity
Our charity shop has unique gifts handcrafted in Georgia and Russia, exclusive card designs, jewellery, books, toiletries and more. Each purchase helps vulnerable children and families in Eastern Europe.