A visit to The Wish Centre

The journey from Chişinău to Călărași was just over an hour to The Wish Centre for disabled and autistic children and youths. This centre is a beacon for many local families who are raising children with special needs. Currently it is the only place in the region they can turn to for help and guidance.

Eugenia, who is just over 30, saw her life take a dramatic turn a decade ago when her sister lost her parental rights, and Eugenia found herself looking after her niece Ana, a baby with Down syndrome.

Continue reading A visit to The Wish Centre

Parent praises Deaf Club

At first sight, it might seem as if not much is happening at the Deaf Club we sponsor in St Petersburg. Children play, parents chat. They get together for a sing-song and a chat. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, but something extraordinary is happening. Parents are gaining confidence, and children are learning new skills, skills they might not have had a chance to develop so early or so well because they are deaf.

Recently, the Deaf Club surveyed it’s parents. Grisha’s mum, Anastasia, responses show us just what the Club means to families.

What does visiting our club give you?

We go to the Club with our 2-year-old son Grisha. Coming to the Club with my child, I feel calm. I learn a lot bout child development. I can also talk to other parents and discuss problems. Grisha has the opportunity to socialize from an early age, being with both children and adults in the same place.

Continue reading Parent praises Deaf Club

Exciting trip for Kondopoga’s children

Recently, the Kondopoga parish fulfilled an ambition to take the older children to visit Staraya Ladoga, the first capital of Russia. Despite hitting a snow storm as they travelled south from Kondopoga, they managed to get there and back in a day, and to see the highlights of this ancient town.
Continue reading Exciting trip for Kondopoga’s children

Our Christmas appeal – a chance to help Ana

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’s story

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)?

Meet our new Moldovan partners

In Moldova only 26% of the population believe that people with special needs should be included in their community. Like other ex-Soviet countries, Moldova has traditionally relied on large institutions to care for disabled children and adults. This has left communities wary of those who are different, and families with very few support services.

St Gregory’s has a history of championing inclusion in this region. We look forward to working with our new partners to give families access to the kind of support which will affirm their children’s value and help them reach their potential.

On 28th November, Giving Tuesday, there is a great opportunity to help. You can help us win a share of $1,200,000 by donating on that day via Global Giving.

We also have tickets on sale for our online talk on Ukrainian art and architecture from an esteemed curator, Alexei Leporc, at The Hermitage Museum. 

The Wish (Dorintsa) is based in Călărași. They provide therapy and education for children with additional needs in this mainly rural area.

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.

Sunflower summer camp for families

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.

Fire at Dolbeniki

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.

Kondopoga’s inclusive summer activities

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.  

Kondopoga parish take children to theatre

Children from Kondopoga parish visit the theatre

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.

Counselling for special needs parents

staff member from Communication Space with a parent

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.

Read more: Counselling for special needs parents

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.