This year our Christmas appeal is in aid of The Wish, a Moldovan charity that is providing rare community support for children with disabilities in Moldova.
Ana is eleven now, and she has been coming to The Wish since she was five. Ana had a difficult start in life. She used to live in the countryside with her mother, who is disabled, and her grandfather. After her grandfather died her mother couldn’t cope financially or practically. Fortunately, the wider family were able to help and Ana now lives in Călărași with her aunt.
Ana also has Down syndrome. Her aunt is working hard to try and meet her additional needs and brought her to The Wish. When she first joined aged five her language skills were poor, as well as her co-ordination and fine motor skills. The Wish provide her with a personalised programme of therapy including speech therapy. She also takes part in a whole range of activities, both educational activities and social ones. Ana is integrated into a local mainstream school, but she only attends two days a week. This makes The Wish’s support absolutely vital both for her and her family.
Ana is lucky in that in her aunt’s family she feels loved and important as a member of the family. Eugenia strives to educate her properly and to be her mother and close friend as well. The Wish supports her aunt and mother by teaching them about Down Syndrome and about some of the strategies and techniques they use to work effectively with Ana. They are fortunate to have formed a good team with her family – together they can give Ana much more support than either of them can alone.
How to donate today
We are delighted to see the progress that Ana has made, and to see her enjoying our group activities so much. It is very much for Ana, and other children like her, that we are appealing today. It is so important that Ana’s care is not interrupted, and so we are doing all we can to fill gaps in the local funding. Can you help us raise £4,300 by the end of the year so that we can continue to be there for Ana and her family (as well as 29 other children and young people)?
Our November newsletter is out now. It marks a new departure for St Gregory’s, introducing our three new partners in Moldova. All three are tackling the woeful lack of community services for people with special needs or learning difficulties. They also hope to challenge the stigma around special needs in a country where only 26% of the population believe that people with special needs should be included in the community.
You will also find all the news from our Russian and Georgian partners, plus ideas for how you can get involved. You won’t want to miss our art talk from esteemed Hermitage Curator, Alexei Leporc. You are also invited to join us on an exciting trip to Georgia.
Sunny Corner (Plaiul Soarelui) runs a farm in the Moldovan countryside, where young people with disabilities can get involved in meaningful work and social activities. We are delighted to have co-sponsored a ball for their families, and young people with learning difficulties from further afield, including Ukraine. Parents talk of how the event made them feel visible, and brought great joy to their children.
Rain Kids (Copiii Ploii) is based in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. The charity provides therapy to children with special needs. Together we are tackling the skills gap by funding additional training for their therapists.
Our partners, Communication Space Centre in Moscow, support children and young people who do not communicate verbally. We support their Alternative Technology programme, using hi- and low-tech means to make communication possible. We are delighted that they have been able to move to bigger and better premises recently.
Sasha is one of thirty children and teenagers that Communciation Space help with regular one-to-one and group activities funded by St Gregory’s Foundation. Sasha is 14. Like all Communication Space’s young people he does not communicate verbally. He also has learning, emotional and behavioural problems. In just six months, Communication Space have helped him make great progress.
Six families with children aged 5 to 11 took part in Sunflower’s summer camp this year. The venue this year was different: they stayed at a centre in Komarovo beside the Finnish Gulf as the log cabin (the dacha) required some repair and later a dramatic fire happened at the site.
A new location offered lots of scope for outdoor fun and games, and as usual special training was organised for both parents and children. Many of the activities related to the levels of freedom and responsibility that the parents give their children as they grow and establishing an appropriate balance. The children were able to explore the theme too through a fairy story, ‘Dwarf Long-nose’ in which a little boy has to cope with a magical transformation so complete that his parents don’t recognise him.
This is the scene in Dolbeniki at the dacha used by Sunflower for their summer camps. A serious accident at a local electrical substation led to a power surge and a wave of fires hit the area.
The free-standing dining room caught fire immediately, destroying the building, the furniture and also the kitchen equipment, which was stored there. Fortunately, no-one was hurt. The fire brigade arrived swiftly and the fire was extinguished. It did not spread to any of the other buildings used during the summer camps.
Sunflower are assessing the damage and the cost of creating a new eating area so that they can run summer camps there again. Meanwhile, volunteers have started to clear the site already, although the weather will soon force a break in the work. Serious work will start in spring 2024, when we hope to be able to help Sunflower recover.
This year, the summer camp started on 6th June and the Parish is planning to continue summer activities until 31st August before children return to schools in September.
Currently up to 18 children benefit from the summer camp, 15 of them are disabled children with a range of disabilities: learning disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, eyesight problems, heart and lung conditions and 4 children are from poor families. All came from the Kondopoga region, the youngest is 6 years of age and the eldest is 15.
At the beginning of the camp, there was a slight problem with finding volunteers, which has now been resolved – 2 people help in the kitchen and 3 help run summer activities. One of these volunteers came from ‘ Zabota’ (Care) social centre.
Every day is organised differently, with different activities such as sewing, drawing, clay modelling, educational games and outdoor games. The camp is also somewhere their parents can get advice, consultation with specialists and volunteers at the Parish and most importantly moral support and a boost to their family budget. Depending on the weather, lessons are held outdoors and this helps to boost the children’s physical stamina. Masterclasses are held for children to create their own masterpieces in needlework, drawing and applique. Everyone is particularly excited to spend time with Danae, the dog of one of the volunteers who made friends with all the children last year. The children enjoy joining in theatre performances too.
The Parish is also planning to provide children with school supplies for the new school term.
They worked out the menus and the budget for a significant part of the trip. During the hike, the most challenging part was navigating the route and identifying suitable places to camp. Some of these experiences caused stress and anxiety, but the staff were there to help the young people cope with their difficulties. Over this short time, the young people grew more confident and resilient. This will be particularly useful for the three who are preparing to leave the programme, having worked with Sunflower for a few years. At the end of the hike, one of the young people said, “Now I can understand what my aims are for the summer more clearly, and I’m confident that I can reach them.
Alongside the walking and camping, the young people also had exercises to help them reflect. One interesting game was to find objects in their surroundings that expressed their personality. Their answers give us quite an insight. One likened themself to a little ant carrying a heavy load, another to a hare, which is scared all the time, but carries on. Kostya said, “I am like a path. Everyone walks on me, but I am solid and unchanging.”
Summing up at the end, one of the group said, “I was beginning to realise, but now I understand properly that I have to look after myself. Before I looked after the cat and my friends better than myself.” Sunflower will help the group transfer this learning into their ordinary every day lives back in St Petersburg. It should give them a great step forward as they become more independent and resilient.
When Yunes first came to the club for deaf and hearing impaired pre-school children in January his family was struggling with his behaviour. Now just a few months later we see a huge difference in him, and his mama does at home too. This will help him enormously when he startes kindergarten in September.
Yunes comes from a bi-lingual family and he uses a cochlear implant. When our colleagues first met him he was almost two and a half years old. Yunes found it very difficult to sit still, he didn’t play with other children, he didn’t keep to any rules and he didn’t react to sounds or to speech.
He regularly came to the club we sponsor with his mother. This is a weekly playgroup with specific support for deaf and hearing impaired children. The club includes a music session, snack time, craft activities, free play and specialist support to adjust hearing aids. Since coming to the club, Yunes’ behaviour has changed a great deal. All the activities are designed to help the children tune into their surroundings. This has certainly worked for Yunes. Now he pays much more attention to what is going on around him. He watches closely what other people are up to and learns how to use the toys and the musical instruments in this way. He doesn’t just copy movements, he has also started to repeat sounds including individual syllables from some of the songs we sing together. He has learned to play with other children and joins in with all the activities we organise.
We love it that at the end of an activity Yunes helps put the toys or instruments away. He also really enjoys helping get ready for snack time. He puts the cups and plates on the table and helps clear away at the end.
His mama says that at home Yunes has learned how to listen and understand what his parents are asking him to do. She has learned to see his strengths and both takes pleasure in and praises Yunes for all his little successes. We are delighted to see their relationship strengthening and Yunes developing the skills he will need to be happy and to make further progress at kindergarten.
Thank you for making it possible for us to support Yunes and his family.
Christmas cards and gifts for charity
Our charity shop has unique gifts handcrafted in Georgia and Russia, exclusive card designs, jewellery, books, toiletries and more. Each purchase helps vulnerable children and families in Eastern Europe.