TO CHILDREN WITH LOVE

By Claire Riley

(Editor) In the Summer 2014 issue of Moscow Expat Life, we printed an article ‘To Russia With Love’. This article was well received. ‘To Russia With Love’ has a sister charity called ‘To Children With Love’ based in Moscow, that is also engaged in extremely important work. Claire Reilly, one of the charity’s organisers, tells us about this worthy cause.

‘To Children with Love’ or ‘Детям с Любовью’ was founded in 2009 to focus on fundraising in Russia, in the belief that the best and the most sustainable initiatives should and can emerge locally. With a board composed of Moscow-based trustees, a celebrity patron and a growing base of corporate sponsors, the charity has, since 2009, worked hard to establish itself as a unique entity in the world of Russian children’s charities.

Selection_475The mission of ‘To Children with Love’ is based on the belief that children without parents in Russia should have the same rights and opportunities as any other child. ‘To Children with Love’ works to build trust, self-esteem, dignity, ability and confidence in the children that they work with, to enable them transition to a normal adult happy life. This involves 365-day a year support to the children, with full-time ‘To Children with Love’ staff based in orphanages to be there when the children need them most.

The very best of institutions, orphanages and large children’s homes are likely to harm children and leave them ill prepared for life in the outside world. Ideally, all of these institutions should be phased out as soon as possible by means of extended family support, fostering, the provision of small family units, and lastly, adoption. However, due to the enormous number of children still living in state care in Russia, the charity’s immediate goal is to secure a long-term stable solution for each child, whilst working side by side with local administrations.

Working most prominently in Bryansk and Moscow, ‘To Children with Love’ staff have also started a range of other projects across Tula, Kaluga, Astrakhan, Orenburg, Smolensk, and Rostov regions, as well as Khabarovsk Krai and in the Republic of Bashkortostan. In every region in which they work, ‘To Children with Love’ has established relations with regional administrations that enable them to operate very closely with all of the children with which they work, in partnership with the state.
But this work is only possible thanks to sponsors, supporters and friends across Russia who enable them to continue their work. Not many small charities can be so lucky as to have Andrei Malakhov as their patron, nor corporations such as the Marriott Hotel group, the English Nursery School, KIA and Megafon. But even with all this support, the charity still needs to find new sponsors to keep up the level of care that the children they work with have become accustomed to. The one thing that these children need in their lives is a constant, supportive adult presence; someone that does not come in and out of their life causing more trauma and pain.

Selection_476‘To Children with Love’ works with children and young adults aged 5-25. There are more boys than girls in institutions in this age range, as girls are deemed less risky to adopt or foster and often leave the system in early years, much faster than their male counterparts. Boys also seem to adapt less well to the absence of a primary carer in early years development, and can often grow up with learning and developmental difficulties arising from that.

It is impossible to ask the question: ‘why did you end up in an orphanage?’ to a small boy of seven, explain where his mummy and daddy are or whether they will ever come to see him again. Statistics and experience tell us they never will. The heartbreak these children have already been through before children in families are able to tie their shoelaces is almost impossible to comprehend as we sit in our cosy flats with our comfortable lives. In order for these children to trust adults ever again the charity has a huge job to show them that adults are there for them, will not leave them and want to fully support them in their journey to adulthood.

‘To Children with Love’ runs a range of programmes that help to develop trust, self-esteem and self-confidence in all of the children that we work with. The charity’s work is specifically designed to take into account types of attachment disorders, and the goal is to give their children the chance to grow up as independent, happy and confident adults with the set of skills needed to succeed in life. We consider that children need love, attention and people to have faith and confidence in them. It’s not about buying a one-off expensive electrical gift on New Years Eve (as has become very fashionable amongst Moscow donors). This is about being there for them the other 364 days of the year as well. Listening to their daily concerns, hopes and fears, supporting them in times of success and failure, and giving them the level of interaction needed to develop their interpersonal skills for life beyond the orphanage. The lives of orphaned children should not stop at the gates to the orphanage where they live and study. They need to feel that they are fully integrated members of society, and the programmes of the charity reflect that.

Selection_478Since 2009, ‘To Children with Love’ has worked with nearly 2,000 children in ten regions of Russia. The full-time, hands on, all-encompassing approach that takes care of every aspect of personal development that the charity embodies, has been hugely successful to date. Children are supported to become whatever they want to be; by providing lessons in anything from cooking to driving, from supporting young mums when they give birth, to being there on their graduation day – the charity provides it all and wants to keep doing so.

‘To Children with Love’ relies solely on the donations and support of Russians, Russian and international companies and expats based in Russia to survive. Without financial support, they cannot continue the amazing work that they are doing to change the lives of so many of Russia’s forgotten about children.

Donors can see real impact from small donations; just 500 Euro can pay the monthly salary of a full-time support worker to be based in a regional institution to run additional educational and creative activities to complement state programmes. This one worker alone can support up to 100 children on a full-time basis and become a constant, loving and stable figure in children’s lives. 250 Euro can pay for one local social trip to a café or place of local interest for fifteen children. This will give them temporary respite from the territory of the institution (where children are housed, schooled and fed seven days a week). Just 50 euro will pay for additional educational support for a month for a child struggling with reading or writing.

Selection_477If you would like to sponsor one of these packages, make a donation speak to someone about corporate sponsorship, then please do contact Natalia Amey on +7 (985) 649 6921 or email n.amey@tochildrenwithlove.ru
‘To Russia with Love’ has recently published a new book called ‘The Children’s Stories’, a collection of personal stories of many of the children they have worked with from over the years. If you would like to purchase a copy of this book then please do get in touch on the number above.
Alternatively please do visit www.tochildrenwithlove.ru to get more information on the full range of work that the charity is engaged in.

 

 

 

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