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.
The St Gregory’s winter newsletter is out now with stories from our partners in Russia and Georgia. With Covid cases rising across the region this autumn and winter, you can find out how our colleagues are adapting to continue serving their communities. We have much to learn from their creative problem solving.
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.
It all started when Demetre’s pregnant wife got toothache one evening during the Covid curfew (from 9pm to 6am at the time). They rang the doctor and discovered that she needed a painkiller that they didn’t have at home. Demetre popped out to the pharmacy.
On his way home, Demetre saw police. He hid between two parked cars. The owner was on a nearby balcony, thought Demetre was trying to rob his car and started shouting. Demetre panicked and ran away. The police caught him and tried to arrest him.
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.
The last few months have seen our work transform itself. Our colleagues have adapted and have proven remarkably creative as they have responded to the challenges of lockdown. In some cases their workload has doubled as they continue to support families who have been hit hard financially, practically and emotionally.
Our summer newsletter chronicles this extraordinary time, shows how your donations continue to work wonders, and pays tribute to our colleagues, and to those who have continued to fundraise for us through it all.
Our Christmas newsletter is out now. Download it to read about Lena’s struggles to overcome relationship difficulties, an accident at work and the temptation of escaping into alcohol. Our Christmas appeal is to help orphanage-leavers like Lena build a stable adult life.
We also have
a lovely thank you letter from a young girl who took part in the summer activities you helped fund in Kondopoga;
an ingenious solution to problems some Russian families with severely disabled children face;
news of events and ways of getting involved with St Gregory’s;
Summer newsletter 19 Timur and his mother’s lives were changed by our work to introduce alternative communication methods to disabled children who cannot speak. Read more about the family, our work with disabled children and our other projects in our summer newsletter.
We warmly invite you to attend our Annual General Meeting on Monday 10th June at 6pm.
This is your opportunity to meet your fellow supporters, give the Board your feedback and appoint the directors for the coming year. As well as formal business (please see attached) we are hoping that the occasion will also provide an opportunity to discuss how the charity can continue to develop and we look forward to hearing your views. There will also be free light refreshments. If you are not a member and would like to vote at the AGM, please join us before the meeting.
The meeting will take place at 68 Ambrosden Avenue, Westminster, London SW1P 1QG courtesy of Mrs Tania Illingworth, SGF Director.
The charity can only continue with your ongoing support so we hope you’ll be able to attend our AGM and we look forward to seeing you. For any further queries please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 372 4992.
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.