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.
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.
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