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Child Sponsorship Report 2009, from Marina Gorka, Belarus

Sponsored children from Marina Gorka
Sponsored children from Marina Gorka

A child sponsorship report from Marina Gorka in Belarus. Written in 2009.

Dear sponsor,
This year turned out very difficult both for the country and the people. The global financial crisis had an adverse effect on the economy. Numerous industrial companies scaled down their production activities. In order to avoid an increased unemployment, they reduced the number of working days per week and thus the wages of those employed. The Government record of unemployment rate is 2 percent whereas the real figure could be as much as 3 to 4 times bigger than that. Those affected do not usually seek an official unemployment status because the associated allowance doesn’t exceed an equivalent of 16 Euro. In the course of the year, wages and salaries averaged a modest 1.6 percent increase staying way behind the inflation growth that approximated 8 percent. By the fall of 2009, Belarus recorded the second fastest growth of prices for consumer goods and foodstuffs in the whole of Europe.

To make ends meet, ordinary citizens have to be very thrifty and economize on everything.
That’s why your support, dear Sponsor, is perceived with special gratitude and appreciation at this difficult time – even more so because it is meant for those not so fortunate – the orphaned children.

As of today, the SOS-CV Maryina Gorka accommodates 89 children – 38 boys and 43 girls. 67 of them go to school, 13 are of pre-school age. 5 high school graduates, having successfully passed admission exams, entered different colleges and started their professional training as car mechanic, cook etc. They left the village and rented an apartment for joint living thus constituting the core of a new, third one, youth facility within our organization. Under the guidance of social pedagogues, they learn how to be self-sufficient: cook, plan their expenditures and manage funds.

In September, one of the SOS-CV-residents departed the village to live with his grandmother. Before, Vlad spent all his vacations at grandmother’s, went to see her on weekends and holidays. The old lady, for her part, visited the boy frequently at the SOS-village. One could see how Vlad is attached to his grandmother.

The little Vanya, who arrived at the SOS-CV at the beginning of this year, got used to the new environment quite well. He recently started attending nursery. At his first acquaintance with local staff and children, Vanya declared to have ‘a real family at the SOS-village’.

In summer, all children had great rest and recreation enjoying the traditional river raft journey as well as spending time at sanatoria and in summer camps. That period spent close to nature will be remembered by many pleasant reminiscences: swimming, fishing, cooking on a campfire etc.

At the beginning of June, the SOS-CV Maryina Gorka celebrated its 6th anniversary. On a warm summer day, a festive event called ‘Six years like in cinema’ was held on the occasion. At the ‘Golden Children’ award ceremony, the participants received specially designed awards (child figurines made of clay and painted accordingly) in several nominations: ‘Goodwill’, ‘Diligence’, ‘Hard Work’ etc. Those who recorded significant learning progress at school were presented with diplomas. Local sponsors handed over a DVD-caraoke – a very useful appliance in terms of facilitating the children’s preparation for social events of different kind.

In November, there was another public event at the SOS-village that has become a tradition in the course of time – the Mothers’ Day. Every family cottage is now embellished with paintings on glass that children presented on the occasion to their SOS-mothers.

It has been three months since the new school year started. Most children cope successfully with learning challenges. The two 4th-graders, Gena and Nastya, having passed the necessary tests, were admitted to the local gymnasium (an advanced form of high school). It was quite a challenge for both: to be admitted they worked hard attending extra classes and visiting speech therapist.

For school children experiencing learning difficulties, extra help is provided at the SOS-village as follows:
• speech therapy classes/counseling for primary school/pre-school children;
• additional lessons in math, Russian and English by school teachers;
• individual and group psychotherapy.

For SOS-mothers, the so called supervisory activities are held on a monthly basis under the guidance of an external psychologist not only as a means of theoretical sophistication in matters of child upbringing, but also as a practical investigation and advisory tool with regard to specific needs. At the end of September, a workshop on children’s diet and nutrition was organized as a matter of practical guidance for SOS-mothers.

The aircraft modeling hobby activity continues at the SOS-village where boys try and get into the air self-made model airplanes. The song-and-dance hobby group attracted 26 children who get busy preparing themselves for holiday festivities and social events both at the SOS-village and at school. 37 SOS-CV-residents attend the local art school including 18 mastering different music instruments, 11 going in for choreography, 2 interested in theatrical art, 6 having a gift of painting. Those interested in sports like gymnastics or wrestling attend respective hobby activities outside the SOS-CV.

The SOS-village recently received a desktop computer as a sponsor gift. A computer room was set up within the SOS-CV-office where children and mothers can go to and take advantage of the Internet access.

We have a disabled child at the SOS-village – a boy called Leonid who’s got an artificial leg. Because his prosthetic device needs to be replaced, we got the necessary funds appropriated in the next year budget. Later on, however, with the help of the SOS-CV friends from the Minsk Orthopedic Institute, Leonid was included into the group of 10 children who will receive their custom-made artificial limbs from the USA free of charge. We are happy for the boy and intend to spend the money appropriated on treatment of other SOS-children.

Early Abandonment Prevention SOS - Project

The above project remained high on the Belarus SOS-Organization’s agenda. Steps on prevention of family disintegration were undertaken in the following directions:
• legal counseling (27 families were provided legal advice);
• charitable assistance to those in need by distributing second-hand wear, school articles and household (furniture) items.

Children remained our special concern because it is them who suffer most from the lack of parental attention and care, get neglected and abandoned. The activities implemented were as follows:
• communicative skills development and emotional stabilization measures for pre-school children;
• swimming pool attendance for little ones on a free-of-charge basis accompanied by speech therapy sessions and defectologist’s counseling;
• communicative skills training for teenagers;
• continued support of a singing hobby activity with participation of 7 girls from the adjacent community;
• parental proficiency training for mothers with children under 10 years (to make mothers understand how child-upbringing methods employed influence the children’s current behavior and future attitude);
• joint ‘creativity shops’ for children and mothers where they practice embroidery, beading, fabricate small things (to prevent them from ‘bad company’ influence, developing drinking habits etc.).

The project-specific activities directed at family support and strengthening have been welcomed and acknowledged by local authorities too.

Recently, on our initiative, a dozen of dysfunctional families were brought together to create a ‘social circle’ under the name of ‘Power of Will’.A benevolent action called ‘Let’s Dine Together’ was held over the last month: families took turns inviting each other at pre-arranged time and date for a three-course dinner. Every family that has hosted such a dinner will be evaluated. The ultimate winner of the ‘contest’ is going to receive a vacuum cleaner as a principal award from the Social Department.

There is a saying that all happy families look alike, but every unhappy family is that in its own way. Larisa was married twice. However, both her marriages ended tragically. Larisa’s first husband got killed following the birth of their third child. The tragedy overpowered the woman, she abandoned the family and took to vagrancy. As a result, the children lost their mother and wound up in a state-sponsored orphanage. Some time later, Larisa met a man who was ready and capable of taking care of her and the children. The woman had her children returned and even gave birth to the fourth one – a boy called later on Kyrill. The family spent 4 happy years together. One day, however, Larisa’s husband, having gone to work, didn’t return home: he died from a heart failure. Dark period once again followed for the family. The woman took to alcohol. It was through psychotherapy provided within our SOS-project that Larisa was brought back to life.

Look at the little Kyrill (the picture is attached) who, not withstanding his tender age, already  had his share of sorrow and hardships. There is trust in those eyes as well as hope that we aren’t going to give up on his mom in this difficult situation.

The end of the year 2009 is already in sight. The staff and co-workers of the SOS-CV Maryina Gorka will try their best and make the approaching Christmas and  New Year’s Eve a fairytale-like event for our children!
May this Christmas will be a delight to You, dear sponsor! Stay healthy and happy!

Yours sincerely,
Oleg Sevruk