A Year of Changes
In light of increasing economic difficulties (including a reduction in financial support, rising inflation and reduced subsidies) we at Love’s Bridge had to make some important decisions to secure the long-term future of the project. The main decision was to move out of the property on Chkalova Street and start working from new municipal Social Centers.
Rent and utilities costs had gone up from virtually nothing to around 10% of our annual budget, and the property was going to need further renovations if we wanted to continue working there. Instead, we decided to create partnerships with Perm’s Social Centers – a recent initiative that has created rent-free, newly renovated properties to be used by charities and NGOs throughout the city.
We believe that Love’s Bridge can have an even bigger impact by working this way – we can find new partners to work with, whilst continuing to refine a blueprint which can be used in Social Centers throughout the city. We also have more funds available for our core needs, and spend less time working on the upkeep and renovations of the center.
5 Years in Perm – A Retrospective
After dedicating five years of their lives to running Love’s Bridge, Hamish and Hannah-Louise Heald have decided to return home to Britain with their baby daughter Francesca.
“Working for Love’s Bridge has been a totally unforgettable and amazing experience, something that’s difficult to sum up in a few paragraphs. We have worked with some wonderful people who put their whole hearts into helping the children in Perm, and we’d like to thank them for their support.
It hasn’t been easy, and there have been some real moments of frustration when you feel overwhelmed by the problems the kids here face compared to the resources Love’s Bridge has at its disposal. But we have always got through those moments, because we can see, hear and feel the real difference Love’s Bridge makes to the poverty-stricken and unprotected children of Perm.
Just small changes in behavior, a slight crack in the wall they’ve tried to put up to protect themselves, the first smile or ‘thank you’… All of the children and young people we have worked with respond well to our methods, because they are in so much need of what we can give them – love, warmth, attention, guidance, trust and true friendship.
Probably the most inspiring people I have ever met are the Love’s Bridge kids who have managed to turn their lives round, believe in their dreams and make something with their lives. Surrounded by friends and family who try to drag them down to lives of addiction, homelessness, prostitution and crime, they have found the inner strength to believe in themselves, and they instill this in their own children now.”
Project Manager 2005-2010
We’d like to thank Hamish and Hannah-Louise for their dedication, and welcome Rafael Davletov as the new Love’s Bridge Manager.
“I began my professional life as a Russian teacher in Perm’s schools, but after volunteering for a youth organization providing psychological support I understood that I was more interested in the social sphere, where I have been working for over ten years.
I became a manager of a section of a psychological center for Perm’s youth, I worked for the youth section of the local government, and was the director of Perm’s ‘Youth Information Service’ for two years. I was mainly responsible for social issues which affect Perm’s marginalized children and young people.
I worked as the head of a commercial firm for some time to support my family, but continued to volunteer for youth organizations, and soon returned to working full-time in the social sphere. Last year I worked on projects to help child drug addicts, juvenile delinquents and young people suffering from HIV.
I started working for Love’s Bridge in June and am now Project Manager here. I was won over by the staff here and, of course, the kids who come to us. I think we’re doing something very important – we help the kids to find themselves. We show them that they can live happily and successfully, looking after their health and the wellbeing of those close to them.
I’m convinced that in our city, in Russia, and in the world there are many people who share our views. We thank everyone who works with us and supports us, and we look forward to making new friends, partners and colleagues.”
Love’s Bridge Project Manager
A Regular Visitor Returns
Michael Kerins, our storytelling friend from Scotland, visited us again this year, giving an enthusiastic talk at Love’s Bridge about sexual health. The kids soon warmed to his charisma and enjoyed listening to his stories, as well as finding out some potentially life-saving information. This year Michael brought some other guests with him, and the kids were delighted to meet them and find out about life in Scotland. Michael closed the session by telling one of his stories in a theatrical style, and revealing a special surprise – a box of presents and clothes for the Love’s Bridge kids.
By old tradition, besides a generous donation towards the project needs, Michael left one last present for the kids – a small sum of money, which they can choose to spend on something special. The kids love this custom, and it’s great for teaching them how to make important decisions in a group.
Here’s what one of the kids wrote to Michael: “My name is Irina, I’m 15. I was frightened to start with when I first saw you, but I soon understood that you are a very good person. I especially liked how you tell your stories, and you gave us some fantastic presents. I really liked all your stories, but most importantly I want to thank you very much for the presents. It was super!”
We’d like to thank Michael and Dominic Kerins, Frances Logan, Ian Ferguson and Rona Barbour, for their support for the project and positive influence on the kids here in Perm.
The Little House on the Hill
We’ve started working in our first municipal Social Center where we have our own office and access to large sports and activity rooms. The ‘Little House on the Hill’, as the kids have named it (it’s on top of Perm’s main hill) already has plenty going on, including a new educational course just for girls, and providing help for local pensioners.
We asked some of the kids why they wanted to help elderly people:
“I like helping elderly people, because when I’m old someone else will help me too.” Vanya
“It was interesting, I found out about the history of my country, that there was a time when you weren’t allowed to give your opinion, that you could be put in jail for just saying the truth.” Misha
Nadya, the Love’s Bridge psychologist for the center, says things have got off to a great start: “We agreed with the orphanage for a group of 7-11 year olds to come to the center once a week. Our group of teenagers had come early and were there at the same time, so when they saw these little kids they decided to help out too. They sat down in pairs with them whilst they did some craft projects, and afterwards they organized some fun activities for them. They have now decided to come along and help out with them every week!”
The Perfect Christmas Present
We would love to see a Love’s Bridge project in all of Perm’s Social Centers – there are thousands more children who need our help. The only thing holding us back is a lack of funding, something we have felt acutely during these difficult financial times.
The perfect Christmas present for Perm’s most vulnerable children and young people is a contribution to help Love’s Bridge expand and give more of them the chance to transform their lives.
Please follow this link to give the perfect Christmas present this year: www.lovesbridge.org/donate