This year our Christmas appeal is in aid of The Wish, a Moldovan charity that is providing rare community support for children with disabilities in Moldova.
Ana is eleven now, and she has been coming to The Wish since she was five. Ana had a difficult start in life. She used to live in the countryside with her mother, who is disabled, and her grandfather. After her grandfather died her mother couldn’t cope financially or practically. Fortunately, the wider family were able to help and Ana now lives in Călărași with her aunt.
Ana also has Down syndrome. Her aunt is working hard to try and meet her additional needs and brought her to The Wish. When she first joined aged five her language skills were poor, as well as her co-ordination and fine motor skills. The Wish provide her with a personalised programme of therapy including speech therapy. She also takes part in a whole range of activities, both educational activities and social ones. Ana is integrated into a local mainstream school, but she only attends two days a week. This makes The Wish’s support absolutely vital both for her and her family.
Ana is lucky in that in her aunt’s family she feels loved and important as a member of the family. Eugenia strives to educate her properly and to be her mother and close friend as well. The Wish supports her aunt and mother by teaching them about Down Syndrome and about some of the strategies and techniques they use to work effectively with Ana. They are fortunate to have formed a good team with her family – together they can give Ana much more support than either of them can alone.
How to donate today
We are delighted to see the progress that Ana has made, and to see her enjoying our group activities so much. It is very much for Ana, and other children like her, that we are appealing today. It is so important that Ana’s care is not interrupted, and so we are doing all we can to fill gaps in the local funding. Can you help us raise £4,300 by the end of the year so that we can continue to be there for Ana and her family (as well as 29 other children and young people)?
Sunny Corner (Plaiul Soarelui) runs a farm in the Moldovan countryside, where young people with disabilities can get involved in meaningful work and social activities. We are delighted to have co-sponsored a ball for their families, and young people with learning difficulties from further afield, including Ukraine. Parents talk of how the event made them feel visible, and brought great joy to their children.
Rain Kids (Copiii Ploii) is based in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. The charity provides therapy to children with special needs. Together we are tackling the skills gap by funding additional training for their therapists.
Six families with children aged 5 to 11 took part in Sunflower’s summer camp this year. The venue this year was different: they stayed at a centre in Komarovo beside the Finnish Gulf as the log cabin (the dacha) required some repair and later a dramatic fire happened at the site.
A new location offered lots of scope for outdoor fun and games, and as usual special training was organised for both parents and children. Many of the activities related to the levels of freedom and responsibility that the parents give their children as they grow and establishing an appropriate balance. The children were able to explore the theme too through a fairy story, ‘Dwarf Long-nose’ in which a little boy has to cope with a magical transformation so complete that his parents don’t recognise him.
This is the scene in Dolbeniki at the dacha used by Sunflower for their summer camps. A serious accident at a local electrical substation led to a power surge and a wave of fires hit the area.
The free-standing dining room caught fire immediately, destroying the building, the furniture and also the kitchen equipment, which was stored there. Fortunately, no-one was hurt. The fire brigade arrived swiftly and the fire was extinguished. It did not spread to any of the other buildings used during the summer camps.
Sunflower are assessing the damage and the cost of creating a new eating area so that they can run summer camps there again. Meanwhile, volunteers have started to clear the site already, although the weather will soon force a break in the work. Serious work will start in spring 2024, when we hope to be able to help Sunflower recover.
This year, the summer camp started on 6th June and the Parish is planning to continue summer activities until 31st August before children return to schools in September.
Currently up to 18 children benefit from the summer camp, 15 of them are disabled children with a range of disabilities: learning disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, eyesight problems, heart and lung conditions and 4 children are from poor families. All came from the Kondopoga region, the youngest is 6 years of age and the eldest is 15.
At the beginning of the camp, there was a slight problem with finding volunteers, which has now been resolved – 2 people help in the kitchen and 3 help run summer activities. One of these volunteers came from ‘ Zabota’ (Care) social centre.
Every day is organised differently, with different activities such as sewing, drawing, clay modelling, educational games and outdoor games. The camp is also somewhere their parents can get advice, consultation with specialists and volunteers at the Parish and most importantly moral support and a boost to their family budget. Depending on the weather, lessons are held outdoors and this helps to boost the children’s physical stamina. Masterclasses are held for children to create their own masterpieces in needlework, drawing and applique. Everyone is particularly excited to spend time with Danae, the dog of one of the volunteers who made friends with all the children last year. The children enjoy joining in theatre performances too.
The Parish is also planning to provide children with school supplies for the new school term.
Recently Kondopoga parish took a small group of children to the local music and drama theatre in Petrozavodsk. For the majority it was their very first visit to the theatre which became a wonderful discovery and brought a lot of excitement. The Parish uses every opportunity to broaden children’s cultural horizons and to teach them about the local history of Karelia.
All the children were from poor families and would otherwise not get the chance to travel beyond their small, provincial town.
Back in the first lock-down of the pandemic, we helped Communication Space set up an online counselling service for parents whose children have special needs.
The pandemic crisis may have passed, but parents can still easily find themselves overwhelmed, particularly in a society that has little positive to say about disabled people. So we have continued to fund the service, and are delighted that a second, local funder has also been found. This means that more families can be reached – 109 families in the last year. Each family can access a course of individual counselling as well as support groups led by psychologists.
The feedback we have is very positive. Yulia wrote,
” I need these groups because they help me feel more stable. This influences how I feel about my child’s special needs, my relationship with the professionals we work with, and relationships within our family. In the end it influences the quality of my choices for child’s education and socialisation.”
Natalia can point to a very concrete improvement in her quality of life. Thanks to the course, she has been able to improve her relationship with her mother.
We are also delighted that Communication Space have been able to set up a training flat. Sergei stays the night once a week with other young adults. This is the first time he has slept anywhere other than at home. At first he found this distressing, but now he is much more settled. While Sergei learns valuable life skills, like cooking, his mother Lydia gets some essential respite. For the first time, she has time she can call her own, to get things done, to spend time with her other children, or just to rest.
St Gregory’s Foundation works with a remarkable charity, called Mkurnali, in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Mkurnali provides sheleter, vocational training and employment, and a legal service to homeless young people in their city.
Nino, Mkurnali’s director, met Fedya and his brother Artur in 2002. They were sleeping near Dighomi market along with other “street children”. He was always cheerful and friendly despite all the difficulties. After the death of his father, Fedya, his mother and brother were thrown out of the house by their uncle and had no other place to go. They had to live on the street and sleep in cellars or wherever they could find a shelter.
We weren’t able to transfer money to Kondopoga in time for their summer activities. However, the parish managed to continue with their food parcels and their children’s activities through June and half of July. A local supplier even provided the food on credit. Fortunately, we have now been able to send them half their grant in our first trial transfer. They can now pay back their debt and contine serving the very poor families in their town.
This summer, the parish managed to take a small group of children aged 12-15 to St Petersburg. The six children were chosen for their maturity and committment to parish activities. Three packed days of sight-seeing were planned, and it was important that the children who took part would enjoy it. All six of the children also come from socially disadvantaged families, so this was their first opportunity to see some of the highlights of world culture to be found in St Petersburg.
Over three days, the group visited the great cathedrals of St Petersburg and nearby island, Kronstadt. The children were particularly amazed by the Church on the Spilt Blood. Outside, the colourful domes are a striking landmark, but inside the mosaics covering every inch of the walls and ceiling really impressed. The children also visited the Hermitage with a tour of galleries devoted to Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio and others. The girls were particularly taken by the portraits of women in the Romanov gallery.
Later this month, Kondopoga parish will be taking a larger group of children to the regional capital, Petrozavodsk to visit the museum and a couple of very fine churches. In this way they continue to broaden the cultural horizons of children in Kondopoga.
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.