Hello from an exceptionally cold and freezing Perm! You will be happy to know that we have got through the worst of the cold weather, and everybody in Perm is already looking forward to the spring! Despite the freezing temperatures, there is still plenty of news for you…
NEW BOY IN 24/7 SHELTER
On the 6th February a new boy moved into our shelter! His name is Dima and he is fifteen years old. Dima used to live in a small town called Nizhnii Tagir, which is a few hours away from Perm. Both his parents died when he was quite young, and he lived with his grandmother. After a series of disputes Dima ran away, and spent a few months just traveling between different towns in the region, and spent a month on the streets of Yekaterinburg. He was finally picked up by the police on a train to Perm, and was taken to a holding center in the city. Whilst he was there he began studying on our course at the ACT center, and told us that he wanted to move into our shelter ‘A Step Towards Home’. We are trying to get in touch with Dima’s grandmother, so that we can attempt to help them resolve their conflict, but in the meantime Dima is very happy to be living in our shelter and has just started studying at a local college to become a mechanic.
NEW YEAR’S CELEBRATIONS
New Year is by far the most important celebration of the year in Russia, and this year was no exception at the Love’s Bridge centers! Following an early New Year’s party at our 24/7 shelter to say a big ‘thank you’ to all our local sponsors, there were celebrations at the ACT center for current participants and graduates, a party at our day shelter, as well as the real thing on the 31st for all the children living at the 24/7 shelter. Our two new managers Hamish and Hannah-Louise as well as the shelter staff organized an evening of fun and games for the boys currently living there. We were also really happy to see shelter graduates Sveta L. and Dima B., who decided to come along too. It was especially good to see Sveta, who came all the way from Orda (three hours away by bus) to celebrate with us! After lots of party games, we left the shelter and spent a few hours sledging on ice slides all around the city, and enjoying all the live entertainment the city government provides! Everybody had a great time, and had a day to rest before the boys living at the shelter went off on their winter holiday. The celebrations still weren’t over, however, as Russian Christmas is celebrated on the 7th January, when the staff at the day center organized yet another afternoon of fun and games for volunteers and kids. We’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ for all those who helped make all our New Year’s celebrations so fantastic this year, especially the Washington Group here in Perm, and all those in Ireland who sent out presents to former and current street kids who are making positive changes in their lives.
After the New Year the boys from the 24/7 shelter went for a short break at a ski resort in the countryside north of Perm. Most of the boys hadn’t been skiing for a long time, so they were really happy to get out of the city and onto the slopes! Even after the long journey there, the boys ate their dinner as quickly as they could so that they could get out on the slopes as soon as possible, and the next morning they were just as eager! They rushed out to make sure the snow was frozen enough to go sledging on the hills, and were very happy to find out that it was. Having spent a few hours sledging, the boys went and explored the forest on skis, then came back to the lodge, tired and happy, to play some games together and learn how to play billiards.
The week continued in very much the same way – the boys skied every day, regardless of the extremely cold weather, and especially enjoyed competitions and races. Not far from the ski resort there was also an ice-skating rink, which the boys were absolutely overjoyed about, and ended up going there several times. At the end of the holiday everybody was tired but happy, and as always, there was plenty to talk about on the way home to Perm.
ACT CENTER UNDER THREAT
As you may know, in 2003 we opened our third project in Perm; the Adaptation Center for Teenagers, or ACT. The Center quickly became one of the most successful projects here in Perm, and is highly regarded by many people here in Perm. A specialist program for helping underprivileged teenagers was developed especially for the Center, and since the opening we have helped many teenagers who otherwise wouldn’t have anyone to turn to for help. In the center, teenagers are not only able to take part on a three month course on independent living, but can also receive help and support from our teacher, social worker and psychologist in order to get back into education, find work or training, or simply get their documents back in order. Over the past three years more than 100 teenagers have taken the three month course, and many more have received other kinds of support. Now more than 60% of those who studied with us are back in education or work.
The premises of the ACT were completely renovated for Love’s Bridge with the enormous help and support of local businessmen and companies in Perm, and now, unfortunately, we are unable to say how much longer we will be able to carry on our work with teenagers in this center. The company with whom we signed a rent agreement has recently gone bankrupt, and the company who has taken over the entire premises has put up the rent two and a half times, which is completely beyond our means. The current company who owns the premises has refused to come to any compromise, despite the extensive renovations we have carried out, and the work that takes place here. For now we are continuing out work in the ACT center, and the eleventh group of teenagers is currently studying on the course. If you are in any position to help us in this situation, please get in touch.
Recently we were offered the opportunity to invite our teenagers living in the shelter and studying at the ACT to start working out in a local gym. At first the kids went in one group, but not everybody liked going in a group, and some of them were quite embarrassed. We decided to let the kids go by themselves if they wanted to, and one of the ACT graduates, Dima T., has started going regularly on his own. He hasn’t taken part in regular exercise for a long time, and this opportunity has really done a lot for his enthusiasm and energy. Like lots of our teens, Dima sometimes finds it difficult to socialize with people, and whilst in the gym Dima bumped into an old friend of his, with whom he has started to go to the gym with regularly. So it has helped him not only get fit, but find friends, and become more sure of himself too!
As you may have heard, Russia has been experiencing one of the coldest winters on record, and some of you may have been wondering how the street kids have managed to cope with this terrible weather! For the children living at the 24/7 shelter, the cold meant an extra two weeks off school, which there weren’t too many complaints about, but for the children still on the streets, it is of course the most difficult time of the year. We saw a noticeably smaller number of children visiting the ACT centre and day centre, probably because finding a warm place to stay and sleep (in basements and around water pipes) is the kids’ first priority. Thankfully the worst cold (up to -35 Celsius!) was over after two weeks, and we are all enjoying tropical temperatures of -10 Celsius or so!