Our partner organisation, Sunflower, supports young people who grew up in children’s homes. For many, the support group is the best way of supporting them. For some with complex needs, a period of individual support, either on its own or alongside the group, is more appropriate. This individual help can be in the form of counselling or helping to resolve practical issues.
Vadim is 19 years old and is one of those being supported individually, as well as being part of the group. Sunflower have worked with Vadim for about a year and a half. During that time he has moved into his own flat, left to him by his parents.
Our colleagues are working on a whole range of issues with Vadim. Firstly, they are helping him understand which documents he needs and why. They are helping him go through a medical commission so that he doesn’t lose his disabled status. In parallel, they are working with Vadim to help him understand and accept his special needs.
Again, on a practical front, our colleagues are working out with him what maintenance work is needed on his flat and how he can make it comfortable.
Most urgently, because of his special needs, Vadim finds it difficult to build safe and trusting relationships. He has often been taken advantage of by so-called “friends”. He is the first to admit that he can’t say “no” to them. “I am afraid they will kill me if I don’t give them money.” After the last incident, our colleagues helped Vadim understand how he could avoid this kind of situation, and where he can turn for help if he feels threatened.
For Vadim, the next step is helping him to find a job and adjust to working life. We wish him well.
Recently Kondopoga parish took a small group of children to the local music and drama theatre in Petrozavodsk. For the majority it was their very first visit to the theatre which became a wonderful discovery and brought a lot of excitement. The Parish uses every opportunity to broaden children’s cultural horizons and to teach them about the local history of Karelia.
All the children were from poor families and would otherwise not get the chance to travel beyond their small, provincial town.
Back in the first lock-down of the pandemic, we helped Communication Space set up an online counselling service for parents whose children have special needs.
The pandemic crisis may have passed, but parents can still easily find themselves overwhelmed, particularly in a society that has little positive to say about disabled people. So we have continued to fund the service, and are delighted that a second, local funder has also been found. This means that more families can be reached – 109 families in the last year. Each family can access a course of individual counselling as well as support groups led by psychologists.
The feedback we have is very positive. Yulia wrote,
” I need these groups because they help me feel more stable. This influences how I feel about my child’s special needs, my relationship with the professionals we work with, and relationships within our family. In the end it influences the quality of my choices for child’s education and socialisation.”
Natalia can point to a very concrete improvement in her quality of life. Thanks to the course, she has been able to improve her relationship with her mother.
We are also delighted that Communication Space have been able to set up a training flat. Sergei stays the night once a week with other young adults. This is the first time he has slept anywhere other than at home. At first he found this distressing, but now he is much more settled. While Sergei learns valuable life skills, like cooking, his mother Lydia gets some essential respite. For the first time, she has time she can call her own, to get things done, to spend time with her other children, or just to rest.
In February, our long standing supporters, Damon de Laszlo and Alexandre Demidoff, the President of the European Demidoff Foundation, organised a fabulous reception at the iconic Lord Byron’s Chambers, Albany. The evening raised a wonderful £6,500 towards Sunflower’s work with orphanage-leavers that St Gregory’s is helping to fund.
We are very grateful to our organisers, to our Patron, HRH Prince Michael of Kent for attending and speaking about Sunflower Centre, which he has visited. Below you can read a copy of his speech.
As Patron of St Gregory’s Foundation, I am very pleased to be here with you all this evening, and thank you for coming.
St Gregory’s remains one of the very few British charities approved by the Charity Commission to operate in Russia and help the most disadvantaged. And it has been doing so for the last 32 years. In these devastating times in Ukraine and the resulting crises, this amazing small charity continues to work hard helping children and families in dire need – the homeless in Georgia, refugee children and families in Ukraine, orphans and disabled children in Russia.
Today we are raising funds for our partner the Sunflower charity in St Petersburg and their work with children after leaving their orphanage. Sunflower enables people with non-visible disabilities to gain the support they need. When I visited them in October 2021, I returned highly impressed by their compassion and commitment to the young people in their care. That includes reducing the risk of dangerous behaviour and providing them with a smooth transition to independent living. And it teaches parents how to take care of their children and build a harmonious life. Your contributions tonight will help make it happen.
I would like to thank the generous long-standing supporter of St Gregory’s and sponsor of tonight’s evening: Damon De Laszlo. We warmly welcome Alexandre Demidoff and the European Demidoff Foundation, our close and long-standing partner for 12 years. The Foundation under the Patronage of my cousin Princess Elizabeth Karageorgevitch consistently supports St Gregory’s, through funding, and it introduces our important work to loyal supporters and new members, many of whom we meet for the first time today. Especially welcome are those guests who have travelled from Switzerland and Italy to attend today’s event. You all are new friends to St Gregory’s and go to prove that our network of supporters is expanding internationally.
By helping St Gregory’s Foundation you help us to continue our work in the best traditions of British and European philanthropy.
We are deeply grateful. Thank you.
Photo: HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO, Contessa Giulia Farneti Merenda Salecchi, Avv. Giancarlo Parrini
Our partner charity, Mkurnali found Dima on Tik Tok. A video journalist had filmed him living on the streets in Tbilisi. Our colleagues somehow recongised him you’d hardly believe he is only 29, found him and brought him back to the Mkurnali shelter.
This was not the first time Mkurnali had been there for Dima. In 2004 Mkurnali had found Dima living on the streets with his brother, Alex. They were 9 and 11 years old and had already been on the streets for two years since they were orphaned. Their relatives had appropriated their flat, and they had run away because of the beatings they were given at home by their uncle.
After a long legal battle, Mkurnali managed to return the flat to them. Once grown up, the brothers moved back in and lost touch with Mkurnali.
Dima was working as a shepherd, living away from Tbilisi for weeks at a time. When Alex stopped answering Dima’s calls, Dima went back to the city to find out what had happened. When he got to the flat the door was locked and bolted. The police were called and broke down the door, to find Alex dead.
After his brother’s funeral, Dima sold the flat and bought cattle and a small house in the countryside. He took up farming. All was going well until the uncle’s son appeared. He forced Dima to sign a deed gifting the house to his cousin and then threw him out on the street. At first Dima was sheltered by a monastery. However, after an emergency stay in hospital, he started sleeping rough.
Dima is now living at Mkurnali and is readjusting to life. Looking forward, he will train in Mkurnali’s enamel workshop and they will return his house to him.
St Gregory’s Foundation works with a remarkable charity, called Mkurnali, in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Mkurnali provides sheleter, vocational training and employment, and a legal service to homeless young people in their city.
Nino, Mkurnali’s director, met Fedya and his brother Artur in 2002. They were sleeping near Dighomi market along with other “street children”. He was always cheerful and friendly despite all the difficulties. After the death of his father, Fedya, his mother and brother were thrown out of the house by their uncle and had no other place to go. They had to live on the street and sleep in cellars or wherever they could find a shelter.
We are very sorry to announce that George Guest and his wife, Shirley, for many, many years a mainstay of St Gregory’s Foundation, have both died earlier this month. Before she died, his wife, Shirley, suggested that those who would like to remember George give a donation to the Foundation in his memory.
We weren’t able to transfer money to Kondopoga in time for their summer activities. However, the parish managed to continue with their food parcels and their children’s activities through June and half of July. A local supplier even provided the food on credit. Fortunately, we have now been able to send them half their grant in our first trial transfer. They can now pay back their debt and contine serving the very poor families in their town.
This summer, the parish managed to take a small group of children aged 12-15 to St Petersburg. The six children were chosen for their maturity and committment to parish activities. Three packed days of sight-seeing were planned, and it was important that the children who took part would enjoy it. All six of the children also come from socially disadvantaged families, so this was their first opportunity to see some of the highlights of world culture to be found in St Petersburg.
Over three days, the group visited the great cathedrals of St Petersburg and nearby island, Kronstadt. The children were particularly amazed by the Church on the Spilt Blood. Outside, the colourful domes are a striking landmark, but inside the mosaics covering every inch of the walls and ceiling really impressed. The children also visited the Hermitage with a tour of galleries devoted to Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio and others. The girls were particularly taken by the portraits of women in the Romanov gallery.
Later this month, Kondopoga parish will be taking a larger group of children to the regional capital, Petrozavodsk to visit the museum and a couple of very fine churches. In this way they continue to broaden the cultural horizons of children in Kondopoga.
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.