Åsa Wikström, Country Manager Belarus, Moldova, Russia

Preventing abuse of children in institutional care

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I arrive in Yekaterinburg in the middle of the night. It is the fourth largest city in Russia, located on the border of Europe and Asia in the Urals. I am here to meet with the two organizations Childhood currently supports: Family to Children and Aistenok. The aim of Family to Children’s project Child abuse: recognition and response is to prevent abuse of children in institutional care. Children living in institutions are among the most vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation.

We visit one of Yekaterinburg’s children’s homes. About 50 children live here at the moment, most of them are teenagers. The children’s home has been selected as a pilot project site and Family to Children will work closely with the staff and the children. A group of staff from the children’s home will, together with Family to Children, develop recommendations on how to detect and prevent child abuse. Once a week Family to Children will meet with a group of children to talk, play and make a video together. The aim is to raise the self-esteem of the children and make them aware of their rights.

Åsa

Photo: Family to Children

Åsa Wikström, Country Manager Belarus, Moldova, Russia

Big brothers and big sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Russia is one of our partner organizations in Russia that runs a mentoring program for children. Adult volunteers, “Bigs” are matched with children, “Littles”, in need of a mentor and friend.

Here are some passages from an interview with Olya, a Big Sister, and her Little Sister Zhennya who have participated in the program for almost a year. Olya is 27 years old and works in finance. Zhennya is 16 and lives in an orphanage in Moscow. Olya and Zhennya talk about their experiences of being a Big and a Little.

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Olya: I had wanted to be a volunteer for some time, because I wanted to do something useful, to help people. I just didn’t know which program to choose from, and then I read about Big Brothers Big Sisters. When I applied for the program, I imagined that my Little would be a small child, in elementary school. But Big Brothers Big Sisters explained that most children in orphanages are teenagers. I was really worried that they would find me a teenage boy – what would I talk to him about! But they told me that my Little was a 15- year-old girl – Zhennya, who likes to read and draw, and I relaxed.

Zhennya: I wanted a Big Sister because I wanted diversity, something new in life, someone to talk to. I like hanging out with people who are older than me – they are interesting and they know a lot. And I have so many questions about everything! When I thought about my Big Sister I just wanted her to be cool, lively and a good person. Now I think life would be boring without Olya.

Olya: In the beginning I treated Zhennya a little bit like a child but now we are equal, although of course I feel very protective of her. Her opinion is important to me. She is more than 10 years younger than me. I learn a lot from her about young people’s lives. She knows a lot about photography and drawing, she tells me about that. I feel like the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and my relationship with Zhennya is important. I never ask myself, “What am I doing here?” I feel that Zhennya is happy to see me and that she is interested in meeting me, she is waiting for me. We often call and write each other just to share something.

Zhennya: I learnt a lot from Olya. Usually it is hard for me to talk to people and let them know what I am like. You can say she has taught me to be more comfortable with who I am, to be myself. My relationships with other people have improved, with friends, with teachers. I would like to still be friends with Olya after the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has finished (Littles participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters until they are 18 years old). It would be a shame to lose such a good person and a great friend.

/Åsa

 

Åsa Wikström, Country Manager Belarus, Moldova, Russia

Online counseling services for children

A little over a year ago the Russian NGO Doctors to Children launched what was said to be the first Russian online counseling service for children in difficult circumstances, a project supported by Childhood. Within the frame of the project “Combating Child Abuse in St. Petersburg”, Doctors to Children’s psychologists and trained volunteers started to provide online support through the website помощьрядом.рф (www.pomoschryadom.ru).

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The website materials include articles for children, a question and answer section, a forum, links to other resources, information about helpline services and programs offering support to children in regions of the Russian Federation. The information on the website is presented in two versions: one for children and one for adolescents.

Among the topics frequently discussed are: relationship with the parents and other family members, relationship with friends and lack of friends, love and relationships, self-esteem and self-distrust, depression and grief, loneliness, physical and emotional violence, and sexual abuse.

/Åsa