Pandemic leads to arrest of innocent man

It all started when Demetre’s pregnant wife got toothache one evening during the Covid curfew (from 9pm to 6am at the time). They rang the doctor and discovered that she needed a painkiller that they didn’t have at home. Demetre popped out to the pharmacy.

On his way home, Demetre saw police. He hid between two parked cars. The owner was on a nearby balcony, thought Demetre was trying to rob his car and started shouting. Demetre panicked and ran away. The police caught him and tried to arrest him.

Continue reading Pandemic leads to arrest of innocent man

Kondopoga parish responds to Covid

Usually, with our help, the Orthodox parish in Kondopoga, Karelia provides lunch and a range of activities to deprived local children – all based at their welcoming hub at Parish House.  This year, group activities weren’t possible, but with unemployment rising the parish knew that the need was greater than ever.

Continue reading Kondopoga parish responds to Covid

Our newsletter brings you accounts from extraordinary times

The last few months have seen our work transform itself.  Our colleagues have adapted and have proven remarkably creative as they have responded to the challenges of lockdown.  In some cases their workload has doubled as they continue to support families who have been hit hard financially, practically and emotionally.

Our summer newsletter chronicles this extraordinary time, shows how your donations continue to work wonders, and pays tribute to our colleagues, and to those who have continued to fundraise for us through it all.

Suicidal young man finds haven at Mkurnali

New resident with Jamal, who helps run the shelter.St Gregory’s has a long-standing partnership with Mkurnali, a charity that helps homeless young people in Tbilisi, Georgia.   Nino Chubabria, Mkurnali’s director tells a story of an extraordinary coincidence which allowed the charity to save a young man.

“Not long ago, one of our residents saw a news report about a lad who tried to commit suicide.  He had lost his job, and with no income, he had also been evicted.  Vano recognised the young man because they grew up together in an orphanage, and he asked me to help him.  When I watched the story, I also recognised the young man.  He had been arrested about ten years ago for stealing toy binoculars.  He was then a child living on the streets of Batumi and Tbilisi, and he survived by begging and stealing.

We got involved and saved him from prison on condition that we took responsibility for him.  He came and lived in our shelter for two years.  After that he started working and living independently, until he lost his job because of Corona virus.  After seeing the story, Jemal found him and brought him back.  He now lives at our shelter again, and will stay here until he can start work again.”

Supporting disabled children and their families online

How do you explain to a child who cannot speak that they can’t leave their small flat for the foreseeable future?  How do you provide physiotherapy, such a hands-on discipline, online? These are the questions facing our partners at Physical Rehabilitation in St Petersburg and Communication Space in Moscow.  They have been pulling out all the stops to make sure that families are supported at this difficult time, and parents equipped to deal with the new challenges.

Maxim’s mother explains a little of what their new life under quarantine is like.

“When the self-isolation started, it seemed as if our children would be without support for an unknown period.  But then we remembered everything that we had learned in our group and individual sessions.  Gradually, we began to organise activities at home, dusted off a pile of unused games, toys and aids for moving Maxim, which we never got round to using in the business of daily life.  Maxim developed a wish to explore our space.  He chose to do this by crawling on all fours, when before he had never crawled around the flat.  It’s the first time our son has studied the flat so thoroughly – we can’t get his wheelchair through the narrow corridor to our second room – but he got there on his own, and very energetically.  Generally, the usually perservering Maxim’s energy is bubbling over.

Then in April, the A-Tech project suggested online activities, and we decided to give it a go, even though we couldn’t imagine what it would be like.  The online format maintained the number of individual and group sessions.  So, although the situation demands a lot more strength and attention from parents, we are not alone.  Our therapy team is always in touch.  Together we resolve our pressing day to day problems over video link.  For us, one of these problems was how to encourage Maxim to help with the washing up.  Without a vertical support it is very difficult for him to stand.  So, together we decided to saw out a section of the shelf under the sink, so that the support would fit under the sink.  It was a very unexpected, but successful solution to our problem.  The joy of splashing in water should be accessible to everyone!

By video we are working with occupational therapist Dasha on our hands: we do a video showing how Maxim can move his hands in all directions, then we discuss and think about how he might be able to, for example, pour milk.  Maxim is now an expert in fixing himself a milk cocktail on his own.  Of course it is hard for Maxim and me without seeing Dasha in the flesh, but considering the circumstances we are continuing to develop with these fun video sessions.

The project has recommended a set of daily exercises to develop strength, stamina and flexibility at home.  For Maxim, as one of the youngest in the group, Sasha, the physiotherapist, thought up and filmed a game in which he had hidden 2 sets of 10 squats!  After we have learnt a new exercise, we take a video and send it to Sasha.  Filming our different exercises keeps us motivated.  We have set up a special group where parents can share the videos.  At the moment we are not having individual online sessions: because of his age and character, MAxim does not take to instructions over the computer.  It doesn’t have the same authority or passion as seeing Sasha in person.  So, we do our exercises independently according to the regime Sasha has set.  We do them a bit at a time when we can fit them in.

On Saturdays we gather in groups of five online.  It is lovely to see each other on video.  The kids have really been missing each other.  We have fitness with Sasha, experiments with Dasha and conversation with Asia (psychologist and communication specialist).  All the sessions are run taking Maxim and the other children’s characters into consideration.

Thanks to the A-Tech project we are not bored at home.  We are active, but we can’t wait to see each other in person!”


Justice for one Tbilisi family

In normal times, one of our major programmes provides justice for homeless and vulnerable young people in Tbilisi, Georgia.  During the Corona virus crisis, our lawyer is working from home and the court system is seriously disrupted.  Here is a reminder of one of our successful cases.

When we got involved, Vladimir had been arrested and charged with Deliberate Bodily Harm and was facing up to eight years in prison.   The case file showed that Vaska had been visiting Vladimir, they quarrelled and Vladimir inflicted severe bodily harm on him.

In fact, the situation was different Continue reading Justice for one Tbilisi family

Astonishing, but true story of a family hit three times by hearing loss.

Fedya in the toy bed

Our Club for young children with hearing loss can be a huge support for families. Over the last year and a half they have been helping a family with a scarcely believable story.

Nearly a year and a half ago a mother came to our Club for the first time with her little boy, Slava, who had a Cochlear Implant (which can help profoundly deaf people perceive sounds). She was heavily pregnant, so after the first visit Slava would come with his grandmother. Continue reading Astonishing, but true story of a family hit three times by hearing loss.

Life changed in so many ways for this orphanage-leaver.

LenaLena grew up in an orphanage in St Petersburg.  She joined Sunflower’s support programme two years ago after she split up with her boyfriend.  She had realised that she was getting tetchy and tearful and was going out drinking more often.  At around this time, Lena lost two fingers in an industrial accident.  Her then boyfriend didn’t visit her in hospital, and this was when she decided to end their strained relationship. Not knowing how to live alone, she said, “I didn’t just lose myself, but my home too.  I would do nothing but work, even putting in extra shifts just to avoid having to think about anything.” Continue reading Life changed in so many ways for this orphanage-leaver.

St Gregory’s Christmas newsletter is out now

Christmas newsletter - front page

Our Christmas newsletter is out now.  Download it to read about Lena’s struggles to overcome relationship difficulties, an accident at work and the temptation of escaping into alcohol.  Our Christmas appeal is to help orphanage-leavers like Lena build a stable adult life.

We also have

  • a lovely thank you letter from a young girl who took part in the summer activities you helped fund in Kondopoga;
  • an ingenious solution to problems some Russian families with severely disabled children face;
  • news of events and ways of getting involved with St Gregory’s;
  • Volunteer opportunities for 2020 in St Petersburg;
  • Offline order details for our Christmas cards.