Emotionally stable parents seem to know naturally how to play with their children. The parents Sunflower supports grew up in children’s homes and they need to learn this essential skill.
Lida’s childhood was marked by multiple traumas: alcoholic parents, time in a children’s home, and several failed adoption placements before she was successfully placed with her present family. She now lives in Lensovietsky, the suburb featured in our last newsletter, where Sunflower has recently set up a support group due to the high number of care-leavers in the area.
Lida was rather passive and would just say, “you see, she doesn’t listen to me”. The Theraplay method involves repeating the same simple games. This means that it is easy for the child to learn the rules and for the parents to concentrate on their child. Sunflower had a breakthrough when Liza’s dad also started coming to sessions. He too grew up in a children’s home and came from a family of alcoholics. He is rather jealous of Lida’s relationship with her adoptive family, and this makes it difficult for her to get support from them. This puts a strain on her relationship with Liza’s dad.
Theraplay has helped bring the three of them closer together. Lida values the sessions now and is keen not to miss them. She chats to her daughter and gives her cuddles. In return, Liza will ask her mama for help and also does what she is told more often. It’s obvious that Liza really likes playing with her mama and papa now. She particularly likes being swung in a blanket.
Sunflower continues to work despite the very difficult climate. With foreign funding from many quarters disappearing and local funding also drying up many local charities have had to cut services. Sunflower continues to support 21 families in crisis, including 30 children.
St Gregory’s has worked with Ekaterina Klochkova to improve the care of disabled children since our beginnings as a charity. In recent months, Physical Rehabilitation, the charity she founded in St Petersburg, has developed significantly, allowing them to serve more families.
We are delighted that on 9th May our Patron, His Royal Highness, Prince Michael of Kent, met our long-standing supporters Svetlana Savelyeva and Yulia Kozlova from Help Impact, joined by Countess Alexandra Tolstoy-Miloslavsky and the SGF team: Nicholas Kolarz, Chairman, Tania Illingworth (nee Tolstoy), Director and Julia Ashmore, Executive Secretary.
For the last two years Keti has been fighting to return to her job after she was fired in very dubious circumstances. Keti is a former beneficiary of Mkurnali, a Tbilisi charity that helps vulnerable young people. Once again, she turned to them and their legal programme, which is funded by St Gregory’s Foundation.
Our colleagues in Russia have had serious adjustments to make in recent weeks. Some have had grants cut with no warning. All have had access to Facebook blocked. For some this was a very active way of communicating with the people they helped directly, and also with people from further afield who looked to them for advice. The Club for hearing impaired toddlers is filling this gap by using WhatsApp and being available on the phone to families that need advice in between sessions.
The Club has also welcomed a refugee family from Ukraine. Anastasia and her son Nazar are both deaf. They have found a warm welcome at the club and the support from other parents is very important for them. They left home without Nazar’s hearing aid, but the Club has been able to help them. When children get a cochlear implant fitted, parents donate the hearing aids that they no longer need. This means the Club has been able to give Nazar a hearing aid straight away.
Vlad started coming to our support group for orphanage-leavers in St Petersburg a year ago with his friend, Boris. From the start he engaged really well with all the activities. Our colleagues invited him to take part in the summer camp, which he did with enthusiasm. Again, he took part in everything, was very helpful and was very open in all discussions.
Vlad knew that he could stay in touch over the summer. A few weeks after the camp, our colleagues got a call from him to say that he was moving out into his own flat. He said, “Everything’s fine. I just walk around and admire my place.” Over the next few weeks he kept in touch and was looking forward to restarting the group sessions in September.
So when September came, it was a surprise to our colleagues when Vlad didn’t appear and stopped taking calls. They got in touch with his college, who said that everything was fine and that he was going to classes and living at their hostel now.
Thank you to all everyone who has sent us messages of support at this difficult time. Of course, our thoughts and prayers are with those suffering in this humanitarian crisis. We are not in a position to meet their needs directly, but we will be donating half the proceeds from our next fundraising event to Save the Children’s Ukraine appeal. We chose Save the Children because of their experience in responding to crisis situations and our shared focus on children and families.
Meanwhile, we continue to support our projects in Russia, conscious that the very vulnerable people we help will be hit very hard by the current inflation. We are proud of our long-lasting and fruitful relationships with our partners. The work we have done together has always been, and continues to be, resolutely a-political.
At present we continue to have a limited number of ordinary bank payment routes open to us. If those are closed by sanctions, we will explore other legal avenues to ensure donations reach our projects. We are speaking to the Charity Commission for guidance. We will always keep you informed if our situation changes.
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.
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”.
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