Åsa Wikström, Country Manager Belarus, Moldova, Russia

An Open World

Kaliningrad in October. It is an ordinary house in an ordinary street. A nice neighborhood not far from the center of the city. There is a gate but no sign showing what kind of place this is. There are apple trees in the garden, with the biggest apples I have ever seen. The colors of autumn are starting to show.

I am here to visit the organization Open World. It was founded in 2002 to support young people leaving residential care institutions. The target groups of the project Home Chance – Successful start in independent life are young people who grew up in orphanages, teenagers who are still living in orphanages and young parents who were raised in orphanages. Eight young people are currently living in the Home Chance. They live here temporarily and receive various kinds of support from a small team of social pedagogues and psychologists.

During the day, I get to meet several of the young people who take part in the different activities at Home Chance. A group of young people from Home Chance have a first meeting with psychology and social work students from the university to plan a joint project. The goal is to set up a program for a group of teenagers who are about to leave an orphanage, to prepare them for an independent life outside the institution. Another group of young parents (seven mothers and one father) have a group meeting with a psychologist while their children are being taken care of in a room nearby. They do some exercises to get to know each other and discuss the plans for the nearest future, what topics they would like to see covered in their meetings and events.

Even though I had heard about Home Chance before I came here, I am still a bit surprised. The whole atmosphere is so warm, friendly and open. An ordinary house with extraordinary people.