Тhe work of St Gregory’s Foundation, initiated in 1990, was formally registered in the UK (1991) and Russia (1992) to encourage Western well-wishers to help Russians to help themselves in solving urgent social problems. Our founder, Irina von Schlippe, spent a sabbatical year teaching in St Petersburg. During this time she identified responsible Russians whose professional and voluntary work would blossom with our assistance. She went on to link them up with British professionals and volunteers. Some of the initial people are still working with us.
Immediately before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country suffered severe shortages of food, clothes and other essentials. We shipped 52 containers to St Petersburg as well as Moscow, Siberia and the Ukraine. These contained clothes, medicines and medical equipment, but also tools and materials to enable locals to grow food and make clothing. This helped establish a network of volunteers in the UK and Russia.
We also realised early on that there was a great need for skills in some areas of medical and social care. Our two huge medical programmes, started in 1992, are still working.
Moreover, large institutions were still the only home for most children in care and the disabled. The shift towards looking after these people in the community and helping them take part in society is still happening. It takes time to remake a system and we are proud that our partners are contributing to this transformation.
Below you can read more about our achievements:
Improving family planning and care for pregnant women
In 1990s abortion was the only method of family planning available to most Russian women. We cut the abortion rate five-fold in a district of 60,000 women of child-bearing age, by training staff at a Well Woman clinic in family planning, sex education and ante-natal care.
Introducing physiotherapy to Russia
In 1990s we helped introduce physiotherapy to Russia. Now local specialists are training others in the discipline. Their skills are helping disabled children learn to sit up, to stand and even to walk, when previously they might have been confined to bed. Our colleagues are at the forefront of changing attitudes to the disabled in Russia so that they can take their place in society.
We delivered over 50 containers of humanitarian aid to St Petersburg, Moscow, the Ukraine and Siberia. These contained life-saving hospital equipment, an ambulance, clothing for children in orphanages and fabrics and wool for workshops enabling local people to earn a living. The excellent, and absolutely transparent organisation that we built up at this time is the foundation of our work today.
Our work in orphanages was honoured when Her Majesty The Queen met children from Orphanage No. 24 in St Petersburg during the State Visit of Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to Moscow and St Petersburg in 1994.
The first Life Skills course for children in orphanages
In 2005 we published a set of course books to teach children in orphanages how do their teeth, cook, get a job and avoid being made homeless. 14,000 copies of the course have been distributed through Russia.
Foundation of charity to help orphanage leavers
In 2007 we were among the founding donors that helped establish the Sunflower Centre (then called Warm House). The charity started by supporting 15 parents who grew up in orphanages. Since then, the organisation has become firmly established. It helps hundreds of orphanage-leavers each year and delivers training to raise the levels of care across their city and beyond. We continue to work with Sunflower on their programme for young care-leavers without children.
Building a centre for children’s summer and winter camps in Karelia
We helped Kondopoga parish build a dacha, which is now used by children’s and youth groups from Karelia and St Petersburg. The house makes up for a severe lack of suitable facilities in this poor region of Russia.
A secure home and training centre for street children in Tbilisi, Georgia
In 2011 we helped buy a house for street children’s charity, Mkurnali. This now houses around 20 young people and several babies who would otherwise be homeless. While living there all receive a vocational training and start work so they need never return to life on the streets.
Preventing hearing loss in babies
Thanks to equipment provided by St Gregory’s, all premature babies are now screened for hearing loss soon after birth. Identifying problems early means that some hearing loss can be prevented. Those who will have ongoing problems can get help immediately at our club for hearing impaired children. We have also helped improve cancer treatment for children to reduce the cases of hearing loss caused by chemotherapy.
Ground-breaking Training Centre for Disabled Teenagers in St Petersburg
St Gregory’s worked together with a special state school Dinamika, our sister charity “ Let’s help each other” the social enterprise “ Fair Pay” and other partners to create a new training centre for graduates of disabled schools in St Petersburg. This Centre gives a life-changing opportunity to young people living with disability to learn practical life skills, to receive vocational training, physiotherapy and physical fitness sessions. This will all help them become more independent and address the enormous challenges that disabled young people in Russia face every day.
Introducing Alternative Technology to help disabled young people communicate
Alternative Communication is a great blessing to people who struggle with verbal communication. With the aid of solutions ranging from simple picture flash-cards to special software, even those with severe multiple disabilities can learn to communicate. St Gregory’s Foundation has helped our partners, Physical Rehabilitation in St Petersburg and Communication Space in Moscow, to introduce new methods into their work. Our colleagues have visited top special schools in the UK and received training from a centre of excellence in Poland. 30 children and young people are now benefiting from tailored support. We have also funded seminars and webinars, which have helped transfer this knowledge to 200 parents and professionals.
Without existing partnerships in Ukraine, we responded to the humanitarian crisis by giving a grant to Save the Children for their work with refugees. With their experience of crisis situations and our shared focus on children’s welfare, we felt that they were best placed to make use of generous donations from our supporters.
New partners in Moldova
In 2023 we took the decision to support the excellent work done by three NGOs in Moldova, who support children with special needs and their families. We will work with them to improve access to therapies in the community and to create a more inclusive society.