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.
Vadim joined Sunflower’s programme in March 2020. He had left his children’s home six months earlier and returned home to his mother and grandmother. He was 16 when his mother’s parental rights were taken away and he was sent to the home. From the age of 11, Vadim had had spells in a pschiatric hospital from time to time. “Mum said that I was going on holiday. We would get on the tram in the morning, and the whole way I would be saying, “Are we nearly there yet?”. When we arrived it turned out that it was a hospital for psychos.”
Vadim didn’t settle into the children’s home. He even ran away to Dagestan once. Vadim remembers that as the best trip of his life. When he turned 18, Vadim left the children’s home straight away and went home. There were constant arguments with his grandmother and his mother, who drank and had mental health problems.
When the pandemic hit, Vadim made contact with Sunflower’s psychologist. Sunflower were also able to help him with food because he hadn’t been able to find work after the children’s home. In the summer, when the restrictions eased a little, he was able to find a job. He doesn’t have a contract, but he is happy that he gets paid every day, and takes his work seriously. He says, “I have had to change a lot of things in my life, like thinking about what I look like, what I’m wearing, and how I behave.”
Vadim has started coming to our group sessions, but not regularly yet. He usually sits quietly to one side and observes and listens. He says, “One day I will be more trusting, but not quite yet”.