The Irish Show Their Generosity and Continue to Give to Charities

According to the Charities Aid Foundation’s World Index for 2016, more than half of Irish people helped a stranger in 2016, with 66% giving money to charity and 40% volunteering their time. The Irish are quite simply, one of the most generous and caring people on earth. One would have thought that in the present economic difficulties that just about all foreigners working in Russia are currently exposed to, would adversely affect Irish expats’ generosity. Don’t you believe it, if the money raised from the 2017 Emerald Ball, organised by the Irish Club is anything to go by, the Irish continue to show a spirit of giving and connecting to people that continues to thrive even if hard times.

The Ball raised enough money to give 300,000 roubles was donated to the charity ‘Kitezh’, 1,400,000 roubles for the charity ‘Big Change’ and 300,000 roubles to the charity ‘To Children With Love’. Below are three texts, written by different people, which describe the work of these incredible charities. Editor.

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Kitezh

Hugh Mc Enaney, Educator, Coach and Social Justice Advocator

The wife is driving  you crazy, kids are screaming, bills need to be paid, in-laws are coming to town and the car just broke down and needs a service asap. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there but, hopefully, not all of the above at the same time.  Keep calm, breathe and get busy getting things back on track. It is all part of life. Things happen when we least expect it.  Some men, however, do not choose this common sense approach and blame their spouse and resort to violence.

One would surmise this is attributed to alcohol misuse but studies have shown that, in fact, only 50% of cases are connected to the ‘demon drink’. This figure does however rise to over 80% in cases reported at night. There are many factors which can drive a man to commit domestic violence against a partner or even his children, too many to mention here. Of course, cases also emerge of women committing domestic violence against men too but many remain silent for fear of ridicule and shame. Many Russian activists working in this area of family crises situations had drafted a bill and it is said Mr. Putin, himself, had seen this bill and was ready to sign it into law to make penalties harsher for abusers and offer more protection to the abused.

As recently as January, Russia took steps to effectively support the abusers and shun the victims. “In the traditional Russian family culture, relations between ‘fathers and sons’ are built upon the authority of parents’ power, mutual love and personal indispensability as the basis for children’s upbringing,” said Yelena B. Mizulina, one of the initiators of the new legislation and author of a law that banned ‘gay propaganda’ aimed at minors. Opponents of the law have called it an archaic step backwards for Russia and argue that many more will remain silent after suffering violence in the home and statistics will drop further, suggesting this measure was effective; which is not the case as people who campaign in this area will testify. Hospitals have reported a rise in cases of victims presenting themselves for cuts and bruises and often attribute these minor injuries to a ‘fall at home’ or their own ‘carelessness’ choosing not to name and blame and shame their attackers. If President Putin does sign this bill into law, only broken bones and related offenses in the family home can lead to arrests and charges being filed while other seemingly minor offenses will simply warrant fines from 5000 – 30,000 rubles. Enough of the politics!!

Kitezh Center was established by Alena Sadikova with a view to alleviate suffering of women and children. As with any charitable operation, the wheels cannot keep turning without people’s support. I’ve been contacted by as many as 50 individuals with items to donate over the past two years and have collected or coordinated collection and delivery of items ranging from beds to sofas to strollers to biscuits and toiletries. On behalf of Alena and the guests at Kitezh, I’d like to say a very warm and sincere thank you to Chloe and Graeme Ogilvie who contacted me many times with donations, Victoria Bird who probably has me on speed dial to assist with her decluttering and offer numerous items to the children passing through Kitezh. Nick, Jason, Marij, Ruth, Stella, Ichrak, Morgan, Fiona, Elliott, Lauren, Pascale, Renske, Olga G, Tammy, Elizabeth, Sarah, Katrin, Dominic, Anastasia, David T, Kristina, Laura, Michele and Darrell have also offered items to donate to the cause. A very special mention needs to be given to the residents at Rosinka who have, with the coordinated efforts of Clare Lewis, also given generously with furniture, clothes, toys and footwear on a very regular basis. Damas Latinas has contributed, with the support of Maria Fernandez, clothing, food and sundry items. I was asked to give a talk to a group of dynamic young students at British International School Number Three in mid-2015 and they have collected over 150,000 rubles on separate occasions as well as a huge range of toys and clothing and electronic devices. The International Women’s Club, with the support of Clare Metcalf, visited and sponsored a water pump, washing machine and related plumbing fixtures. Cashmere and Silk, one of my long term and favourite teaching clients, paid for last winter’s firewood and kept many people warm. Foodbank Russia donated, well, food. This is a super organization that accepts items from major corporations and distributes to the needy. Some of the team, including Maria Bakulina and Natalia Malakhaeva, visited to assess the project and are willing to offer more support but a Moscow based storage facility needs to be sourced as their donations are too large for Kitezh at any one time. I hope I have not omitted anyone and, if so, have your lawyer see my lawyer and we will find an amicable solution.

Seriously, people often ask me what can I do to help. My reply is simple – what have you got? Seldom is anything refused, all donations are welcome ranging from toys and footwear and children’s and women’s clothing. A second shelter catering for men as well as women has been established and is at set up stage now so men’s clothing and footwear are also welcome. People are very generous and I can be contacted at any time to arrange collections and delivery of any items you wish to donate. I’ll email you a wish list and we can arrange a visit to see the work going on first hand.

The annual Emerald Ball organized by the Irish Club Russia was approached for financial aid earlier this year and, with the support of a broad range of sponsors and ticket sales, were able to donate over 300,000 rubles to refurbish a second house which will be used for staff, more long term guests and offer children more space when the weather is cooler as well as ongoing therapeutic care. A visiting psychiatrist will also have more privacy with both mothers and children. This type of capital expenditure is paramount to ensure long term effectiveness of Kitezh and the care and facilities it can offer. Many thanks to all who contributed.

If you would like to help Kitezh, please contact Hugh Mc Enaney at the Irish Club: hughkmc@gmail.com


Big Change

Elena Mazina, Administrative Director, Big Change Charity

Big Change has existed for 15 years, which seems like a long time, but when you are dealing with people and their problems, time flies by very fast. I would like to tell you about our work, and start by telling you about who Big Change helps. We have four categories of students coming to us. Firstly, there are children who are still in orphanages, they are roughly between the ages of 14 and 18. Then there are those who have already left the orphanages, aged between from 18 upwards. Thirdly there are adults over 18 who are living in mental homes. These people are supposed to live in these institutions until they die. Mental hospitals in Russia are closed institutions, no education programmes are conducted in them, so nobody teaches them basic life skills like reading and counting. The fourth category are children from foster homes.

These are teenagers, aged between 13 and 18. We only started to work with this group a couple of years ago. Parents started to call us, asking us how to help their children who they had just adopted with their school work, because when these children found themselves in a normal school, it became clear that they have a gap in their knowledge. Parents come to us and said, for example: “he is in the 8th year but he only knows as much as somebody in the 6th year.”

Being behind academically is a universal problem for all of our students. In some cases, they are as much as three or four years behind. We try to help them catch up, and we call this ‘correctional schooling.’ Some of our students say that they want to enter into a university or vocational college, but this is impossible with the level of knowledge that they have, so our job is to explain the situation and do everything we can to help them catch up. We had a man who came to us, and his reading skill was about 2nd grade. He said that he wanted to be a policeman and we had to make him understand that he will need 9 years to finish 9 grades, and he was already about 35. This work takes time, patience and understanding.

Another main reason that students come here is to help them adapt socially to life outside of the institutions they have come from. Orphanages are closed environments and so orphans have difficulty communicating with new people. Very often they expect that there will be some grown up who will come and bring them gifts, like the gifts that they used to get at their orphanages for almost 18 years. I heard of one girl who left an orphanage at 18, and she was living in her own apartment. She was about 20 or 21 years old when we met. She said that she had a neighbour, a man, gave her a dress as a gift. I asked: “Why?” She said: “I told him I needed a dress and he just gave me one.” This was normal for her, to tell people what she wanted and receive it. So we try to develop their social skills, so that they can communicate and integrate better in the society that we live in. We have extra curriculum activities like a travel club, so that students can interact with other people in a safe environment.

Our classes are very small – from one to five children in a class, we offer very personal education. When students enrol, we check their ability to study in a group, and we arrange our classes accordingly, because different children require different levels of attention, and most simply cannot study in large groups because of their individual study needs.

We enrol about 70 students a year now, but we would like to expand. Not all our students study every day, it depends on each student’s needs. Each individual is monitored constantly, and has a personal tutor or mentor. The student is made aware of his or her progress, and how long it will take him to get to where he or she wants to get.

The mentor will go over tasks, and remodel a course where needed. We try to create a kind of partnership between the students, the teachers and the mentors. Students’ biggest needs are to do with education, but they also come with other issues such as employment and relationships, and we help them and guide them when we can.

Tuition for students is free. The way it works is the directors of orphanages and mental homes in Moscow who we work with contact us if they see that one of their children or patients would benefit from what we are doing. But we don’t accept everybody. We have a very limited supply of teachers, only 30, and very limited resources. Each student’s needs from 2 to 5 years here to finish what he or she has started here, and in many cases each teacher’s methodology is unique for each child. A lot of energy time and effort is invested into each student. It is only thanks to sponsors like the Irish Club that we are able to do what we are able to do now, and we are incredibly grateful for their support. Perhaps people do not really understand the really huge impact they can have when they give money to this cause.

I strongly encourage anyone interested in supporting the Big Change Foundation or simply in finding out more about us to visit www.facebook.com/BigChangeFoundation/ or http://www.bigchange.ru/english/ or get in touch with me at emazina@bigchange.ru or +7 499 317 4444

 


To Children with Love

Debbie Deegan, founder and CEO of To Children With Love

To Children with Love is in its 19th year in Russia this year. We continue to work with our Orphanage children, we do as much as we possibly can, for them every day. We try and find families, if there are any, we do Birthday gifts and Pizza parties for Birthdays monthly. We buy any necessary meds and have a hospital visit routine when any child is sick and hospitalized.

We rarely have children in the Psych Hospital, but when we do, visiting is essential. Suicide has raised its ugly head recently, it is the first time we have had to deal with this. We encourage Universities and colleges all the time, our eldest boys have just returned for St. Petersberg, where they went to look at colleges with Olga, our Childcare manager.

English Nursery School in Moscow continue to be a wonderful sponsor for our children, they are having a lovely Festival in the orphanage in May, bringing many gifted circus folk, magicians, dancers, etc to the orphanage. The children adore it, It opens their minds to colourful worlds outside their orphanage walls.

The Irish Club were so kind this year to support us from the proceeds of their Irish Ball, the proceeds will pay for all extracurricular classes until May 2018 and help all the children transition from Orphanage to Colleges in September.

This is the toughest step orphans make, it is when danger comes into their lives. We do try and prepare them, it is a time when family and parents are very much missed. We have many leavers on our current programmes, we do weekly clinics, meet all teachers, watch their studies, help with legal issues, try and fill in parent gaps, they are great children are really do try their best, we are so proud of our Leavers.

We fund a Young Mothers programme, we visit the children weekly, we buy them food, nappies, we take donated Buggys etc., and make sure they have all they need. The Mamas are watched carefully, as they have no idea how to mother, we pay close attention to this. So far, we have complete success, and none of our Mamas have put a single child back into State Care.

We do hope to see the closure of all orphanages in the next 10 years, much is being done to make this happen with National Fostering, Adoption etc, but many will never qualify for this, and so we will be by their side until their no longer need us.

Many thanks to you all for your support, no matter how small, it all matters to us.

Here’s to us getting to 20 years, Russia has been wonderful to us. We work with many incredible Russian people, we are very proud to be allowed into these children’s lives.

http://www.tochildrenwithlove.ru/