Seasons greetings from Perm!
Russia is famous for its long, freezing cold winters, and with good reason! The streets in Perm have long been covered in snow, and kids – many poorly dressed despite temperatures as low as –40 Celcius – come running into the bright Love’s Bridge centers. They are met with piping hot tea and warm greetings, leaving the cold at the door together with the rest of the outside world.
The festive season is a difficult time for many kids in our care, when expectations of a joyful, happy family celebration are cruelly replaced with neglect and abuse. We will give them a holiday season to remember – gifts, games, sledging, ice-skating, snowmen… and most importantly, make them feel loved and cared for.
Thank you for all your support, which allows us to reach out to Perm’s neediest kids. Not a day goes by without us seeing small but significant changes in the kids in our care, and we are proud to see kids that have been through a lifetime of trauma and neglect come out of our centers with the strength and desire to make something of their lives.
Please think about them over the festive season – every contribution goes a long way to improving the lives of some amazing kids.
Standing up to violence
We recently teamed up with a local student group who are raising awareness of child abuse and promoting ways of reducing it. Unfortunately the huge majority of kids we work with experience abuse, both physical and psychological, in their lives. This isn’t just restricted to home life, but also in schools, orphanages and in public places too. We asked children from Love’s Bridge to write about instances when they have suffered from violence and abuse and would like to share one story with you:
I’m ashamed and embarrassed at what happened. I’m writing to you so that you can understand what you did. I was in the bath, and you came in because you thought I had been rude to you. But I really hadn’t wanted to be rude to you. And you were drunk as usual. You started pushing me under the water, drowning me. Water and air rushed into my mouth and I was gasping for breath. I was really scared. Now I can’t be in bathrooms and in hot places. And when I run fast it becomes difficult to breathe. I know that you don’t even remember this happening. But I want you to know that I’m not angry with you and I have forgiven you. I hope that this doesn’t ever happen again. I hope you love me. I love you.
Cheering on the hockey team!
The kids at Love’s Bridge love sports, and were very happy when the Perm hockey team gave us free tickets to their games. They are called Molot-Prikamye (‘The Kama Hammers’, named after the main river in Perm). They are currently top of the local division, and our kids have been doing their best to support them – hopefully we will cheer them into the Premier League![singlepic id=196 w=250 h=250 float=centre]
In Memory of Kostya, Alyosha and Oleg
December 1st is World AIDS day, which is observed in order to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic, reduce prejudice against those living with HIV and remember those who have died from this condition. Experts consider the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia to be ‘out of control’, with the vast majority of cases being amongst teenagers and young people.
At Love’s Bridge this is a problem which is very close to home… Over the past year and a half there have been three HIV related deaths amongst young adults who were cared for in our centers. One of those young people was Oleg Z., whose story we would like to share with you and whose memory we would like to honour.
“Oleg had so much life and energy and a good sense of humor. I also found that he was one of the more rational kids (when he was sober) and easier for me to reason with. Thank you guys for watching over him until the end. At least he knows he was loved in this life.” (Christina Greenberg, former project coordinator)
Oleg started running away from his alcoholic, abusive father when he was 11. He came to our Day Shelter, but was very addicted to sniffing glue; he was cute and outspoken but could be a real rascal too. He moved into the Love’s Bridge shelter when he was 13 and went back to school, but getting him to study regularly and give up sniffing was an uphill struggle. At the age of 17 Oleg ran away from the shelter completely and returned to the streets.. Oleg started injecting drugs and abusing methylated spirits. Over the course of the next three years Oleg would appear regularly at the Day Shelter, where we continued working with young adults once a week. His condition gradually became worse as the effects of living on the streets and abusing alcohol and drugs took their toll.
It was during this time that we found out that HIV was rapidly spreading throughout the young people living on the streets, and it was with some courage that Oleg amongst others went to get tested at the HIV center. The result, as for many, was positive.
Oleg’s last year was spent living on a hot water pipe in a make-shift shelter on the edge of the city. He never lost his sense of humor and energy and even at this stage we would see the potential for him to turn his life around.… but it wasn’t to be. After a long period of living on the pipes Oleg contracted tuberculosis and only agreed to hospitalisation when he was in the final stages of the illness.
Oleg died in hospital on October 20th this year, three weeks short of his 22nd birthday.
“We used to play ping pong. I used to call him “Zakhar” (meaning sugar, because his surname is “Zakharov”) and he used to call me “Markovka” (carrot). He had a very keen sense of humor, and was lots of fun. It’s very sad that his life didn’t become what it could have.” (Jered Markov, former project coordinator)
At Love’s Bridge we believe that prevention is better than cure; we are currently working with children and teenagers who are at high risk of contracting HIV. These are the kids that need to be educated now to prevent the epidemic from spreading further. We also work with older HIV positive teenagers, help them access treatment and psychological help in dealing with this condition.
Every donation made to Love’s Bridge helps vulnerable young people lead long, healthy productive lives – a gift that truly goes a long way after the festive season…
Facebook and final thoughts…
Some people have been in touch, asking how they can support us through Facebook. For those of you who are members and want to show your support whilst raising awareness for Love’s Bridge, you can do so by following these links:
Thank you for your support over the last year! On behalf off all the kids, staff and volunteers at Love’s Bridge we wish you a joyful and happy festive season and best wishes for 2010!