Tata has had a tough life. Now she lives at Mkurnali and works with the women’s craft group, which made these Christmas decorations. The group was invited to the US Embassy in Tbilisi to take part in their Christmas Market. Mkurnali also participated in the festive market organised by the City Hall. They sold many of their decorations. The children were also very happy to be a part of the New Year market because there were so many fun attractions and sights.
Tata was 5 years old when her parents divorced. After some time Tata’s father re-married and stopped helping Tata and her mother. Tata has not seen him since then. Her mother worked very hard to raise both Tata and her younger brother but it was very difficult. As the mother didn’t have anyone to help she often had to leave the children alone at home with Tata taking care of her 2 year old brother. The family struggled to make ends meet, and Tata’s mother could barely afford to feed the children.
When Tata turned 8, her mother re-married and it turned out that her husband didn’t like children. He would often beat them while her mother did nothing to protect the children. Tata could not bear it and ran away, befriended other children sleeping rough and lived on the street for a few years. Tata was 15 when she met and fell in love with one of the boys who lived in the area where Tata and other young people had been sleeping rough. He was the same age as Tata and later when Tata became pregnant with their first child, he got scared and left her.
Mkurnali found out about Tata’s situation some time ago and at first helped her to get enrolled in a programme run by the Every Child organisation. Tata stayed in the shelter provided by Every Child for some time and later on she moved to Mkurnali’s shelter. After some time she got married and had two more children and they all moved into their own home. Sadly two years ago Tata’s husband died in a car accident and she was left alone with three children and her mother-in-law who was ill. The family only income was Tata’s work as a cleaner.
About 3 months ago Tata accidentally met Nino’s assistant Jemal on the street and told him her story. Jemal offered Tata the opportunity to come and stay with her children at Mkurnali and join Mkurnali’s girls craft group. This would solve the problem of food and heating and Tata could also make some additional earnings. Tata happily agreed and now lives at Mkurnali’s shelter. She has been learning new skills and made a wonderful contribution to the Christmas crafts the group sold at Christmas and New Year markets in Tbilisi.
Other craft groups run by Mkurnali make beautiful silver jewelery, which you can buy in the UK through our online shop. Every purchase helps vulnerable young people get their lives back on track.
One of Mkurnali’s residents, Dato, has also developed serious health problems. He was diagnosed with a severe stage of polyarthritis and his walking and sight have greatly diminished. Sadly the treatment he received has not yet been effective. He now needs a medicine that costs 5,000 GEL (£1,228) per dose. It turns out that Dato will need 4 doses a year. In spite of Dato’s current second degree disability, such medicines are not provided by state funding.
Mkurnali’s director, Nino, and her helpers have tried to earn this amount but this has proved difficult in the current climate. Nino told us: “I turned to my friend, Dr Marina Ramazashvili, who has her own eye clinic and who has helped with free treatment for some Mkurnali’s beneficiaries in the past. Marina ran a free check and confirmed that arthritis caused Dato’s sight deterioration. Thankfully she connected us with another clinic in Tbilisi where the required medicine and treatment will become available in two month’s time with support from Germany. Amazingly this local clinic led by Ms Darejan Shelia will match Marina’s free offer for Mkurnali and serve our beneficiaries free of charge if there are cases of cardiac problems”.
Keeping active is vital for children with physical disabilities, but it can be hard to do. This is why, our colleagues at Physical Rehabilitation in St Petersburg developed Move4Fit. The first fitness application for children with motor disabilities.
Surprisingly, until now, such fitness apps for children with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilties have simply not existed. The app allows families to draw up fitness plans and set goals. The regular workouts develop their motor skills, increase confidence, and are fun.
Last summer was a very special one for the Parish of Kondopoga, Karelia. An easing of restrictions allowed the summer activities to go ahead and the Parish invited ten disabled children and their parents to join the summer programme for children from disadvantaged families. As the weather was warm and sunny, most lessons and games were held outdoors and children learned new skills and made new friends.
“What a wonderful summer! We all enjoyed meetings, friends, laughter and a wonderful atmosphere at the parish. A huge thank you for this support dur- ing the hard time of covid. We also received food, shoes and school uniforms. We are looking forward as a family to growing more with the parish and cannot wait for next summer.”
Food parcels and books and school uniform for the new school year were also distributed by the parish to local families living in poverty.
Lensovietsky is a new suburb of St Petersburg, which has become a “settlement of orphanage-leavers”. Its crime-rate and anti-social behaviour make it notorious. There is loud music, conflicts, fights, etc round the clock. Police raids and visits by social services have become the norm district. Understandable, orphanage-leavers are not popular with other residents. Quite apart from their antisocial lifestyle, they have run up debts for heating and water supply, and residents have complained about the disconnection of such necessary services. The infrastructure – medical, educational, social institutions – in the residential district is still underdeveloped. For leavers, this has become one of the main obstacles to their integration into society.
This is the context for a new class our partners, Sunflower, have set up this year for families in crisis with children under 5.
We are delighted that on 13th October our Patron, His Royal Highness, Prince Michael of Kent, visited the Sunflower Centre in St Petersburg to find out about their flagship programmes at first hand. The Sunflower Centre focuses on providing psychological support for parents who grew up in orphanages and for teenagers leaving orphanages in St. Petersburg.
Almost all the children growing up in Russian children’s homes have living parents. The are sometimes called “social orphans”, but they are not orphans in the true sense. Their parents have been judged unfit to look after them, and they have been taken away from them for their own protection. If we think about them as “children in care”, then we can be more clear-sighted about how to help them. Let’s support organisations that really make a difference instead of giving to the “orphanages” that are part of the problem.
The world can be a confusing and frightening place for Vladik, aged 5. Sudden movements or sounds can scare him. Vladik has moderate learning difficulties, restricted mobility and delayed speech. Fortunately, our partners Communication Space in Moscow, have been supporting Vladik for more than a year. He is extraordinarily lucky to have such skilled, patient and compassionate people working with him. They are able to spot all the small things that Vladik can do, and have the knowledge and experience to be able to build on this.
Milana is two and a half and she started coming to the Club for hearing impaired toddlers that we sponsor a few months ago. She’s a good example of how this club helps deaf children in their whole development. Families and children with deaf children often find it difficult to take part in mainstream children’s activities, so it’s vital we look at the child’s needs as a whole, and don’t just focus on their hearing.
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.