Vologda is located about 310 miles from Moscow in north-western Russia. The city serves as a major transport hub to the whole of the northwest of Russia, and, with approximately 300,000 citizens, is the district's economic centre.
The region has a significant wealth of natural resources, and an established food industry. In 2008, 73% of all agricultural products were produced by large-scale farming in the Province. The industry is also well-known for its manufacturing of cheese and butter.
In recent times, the number of people living in rural areas of the province trying to find work has increased. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, large state farms struggled to cope with an unexpected loss of state-backed support. At its worst, livestock inventories fell by 50% reducing the demand for cattle-feeding grains. This in turn caused a huge decline in planted grains across the region. All around the province this decline, and the increased level of strain it has placed on people, has forced many to relocate to urban areas in search of work.
The influx of new arrivals into many urban areas around the province has created a harsh and challenging environment. Trying to find employment can be very difficult; competition for work is high, especially among women and young people. When jobs do become available, they are frequently low-paid or in sectors prone to hazardous working environments.
A significant loss of parental care
There are an increasing number of children who are losing parental care in the region. Many parents are struggling to cope due to socio-economic factors present within the area. Psychological and health-related issues also impede the ability of many parents trying to provide appropriate levels of care for their children. Under these circumstances, providing a stable family environment is often extremely difficult. With a deficiency in employment opportunities as well as decent, affordable housing and growing rates of drug and alcohol abuse, many parents are forced to migrate away from their children in order to provide them with better opportunities.
Traditionally state orphanages took up the role of caring for children who had lost their parental care. However, these orphanages lacked the sufficient facilities required to develop a child’s social and practical skills. As a result of this local authorities have been working to accommodate more of these children into foster families and family-based care programmes within the area. These recent advancements in childcare have undoubtedly improved the situation for many children around Vologda, but due to an increasing number of children becoming displaced in the region and a shortage of families able to adopt, many children still reside in state care.
How we are helping in Vologda
SOS Children's Villages has been working in Vologda since 2008. With a rising number of children living without parental care, our presence in the region has increased to meet the population's growing needs. With local authorities offering us their support, we took the necessary steps to provide many vulnerable children with an SOS family when they could no longer stay with their own.
Supporting fragile families
Our SOS social centres operate in the immediate area as well as the nearby city of Cherepovets and offer citizens access to a number of community programmes alongside support from counselling and psychological specialists. These programmes provide many children access to the essential services required for their development, including the distribution of new clothes, health support, food parcels and nutritional information.
We also assist with the difficulties many parents face in the region, in particular single mothers, who are able to frequently utilise our services to help provide care and protection for their children. Working closely with local agencies allows us to run special parenting courses, a nursery, and also provide advice to new and expectant mothers. Parents also benefit from the advice our social centres offer to help them find work.
Caring for those with no one else
However, if children are still unable to stay with their families in spite of this support, a loving home can be found for them in one our SOS families. Here, they receive the care and support of one of our SOS mothers, while growing up alongside other SOS children in a family-based environment. While living in our Children’s Village they are able to further their integration into the community by attending local schools with other children from around the neighbourhood.
With an increasing number of children unable to receive the right level of care in Vologda, SOS Children's Villages continues to develop its presence in the region – working to protect the lives of children at risk.