What’s the problem?
Every year in St Petersburg between 300 and 400 young people leave the orphanage system to fend for themselves. Most are totally unprepared, even those leaving in their early twenties. During their time in institutions they are not allowed to take decisions or responsibility, so they are very immature when they leave. They find it difficult to sustain relationships, to find and keep a job, or to look after their own flat or room. They are warned in the orphanage that they will be a failure, that they will fall victim to thieves and con-men, but they aren’t given the skills to avoid these problems. Sadly, all too often this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Six years after leaving the system only a quarter of orphanage leavers feel that they are coping independently.
How do we help?
Some organisations give generous hand-outs to orphanage leavers. We believe that the best present we can give them is respect, understanding, and help to become successful adults, able to earn their own living and integrate into society. We sponsor the Sunflower Centre to support around 145 orphanage leavers. The most troubled will be able to access individual counselling. The others will meet weekly as a group for counselling sessions, work to overcome their challenges, and outings to help them widen their horizons and integrate into society. It takes time to undo the damage of a lost childhood, but we regularly celebrate the small and large steps our young people make towards independence.