News & Media
Please send us an email if you would like to receive regular news updates.
Once again winter has caught up with us and it’s time to prepare for our favourite celebrations in the middle of the long, dark and cold Russian winter.
The last few months have been filled with activity at Love’s Bridge – projects – both well-established and entirely new have made their mark on a lot of really needy children and teenagers. All of those who arrive at the centers for the first time come to us with trepidation, they’re perhaps anxious, aggressive, defensive, and sometimes positively reluctant! But with time, patience, consideration and respect, we always see the tiny sparks of change – a quick glance in the eye, a shy ‘hello’, an unexpected ‘sorry!’, or even, if we’re lucky – a full-blown ‘thank you’.
It’s hard to measure success, especially when the changes in our kids happen slowly, but we’ve learnt that time gives young people opportunities, and time is one thing we always have for the kids in our care.
Many of the children and teenagers who come to Love’s Bridge are overshadowed by daily problems and dilemmas in their family lives. Some tell us of the physical, verbal and emotional abuse they experience by those who are meant to be caring for them. Others may not tell so openly, but their behaviour shows us what they are experiencing at home.
When we ask kids what they want from the future, the vast majority talk about ‘having a family’, and have the idealised ‘TV’ image of what that family should be like. The incredible discrepancy between this image and the grim reality of their own family situation is often hard for them to come to terms with.
We strive to create an atmosphere in the Love’s Bridge centers that makes the kids feel at home – safe, protected, comfortable and respected – but once the kids leave the centers we have no way of sustaining this protection or support. This is why we decided to develop a programme to help teenagers build the solid emotional foundations necessary for creating a stable family environment. We’re never scared to discuss emotional or delicate themes, and encourage teenagers to discuss how they see themselves, what problems they might face as future spouses, maybe even parents…!
It’s never too early to learn the skills to resolve conflicts, avoid fights and vent anger in a constructive way. We hope these tools will allow our kids to break away from the example that their own parents or guardians are setting them, and one day fulfill their own potential as caring partners and parents.
Some children come to us because they attract far too much attention, usually of the negative sort, from parents, teachers or the local authorities. But some come to us having experienced quite the opposite – they are lost in the midst of large families, large school classes, with no-one to provide help, support or just much-needed attention.
Tamara was one of these kids. On coming to Love’s Bridge she was totally lost. She surprised us by telling us that she had not a single friend at school and as the result of her poor health, she was often depressed. Her parents were unable to provide the much-needed extra support with schoolwork, and she was beginning to fail at the tender age of nine! The staff at Love’s Bridge realised that Tamara needed very individual and gentle attention, so with the help of one very dedicated volunteer, we signed her up to the “School Without Lessons” project, aimed at helping underachieving children to improve grades and self-esteem at school. Tamara’s most dreaded subject was English, and, as usual, we saw a massive improvement in her self-esteem and grades after just a few sessions with her volunteer mentor. Kids like Tamara show us that lives can be changed, little by little, with just the tiniest bit of extra dedicated help and support!
The Journey of Life
As you may know, the vast majority of children who are brought up in state orphanages do actually have living parents – they are ‘social’ orphans in the sense that those parents have either been deemed unfit to raise their children, or have themselves given up their children because they lack the material or emotional necessities to raise them. This sad fact makes being an orphan a very traumatic experience, and many children raised in orphanages face a wide range of emotional and sometimes medical consequences of being unwanted or taken away. Over the past few years Russian society has become more supportive of orphans, with people or companies sometimes donating toys or clothes to the orphanages, sometimes organising tea-parties or New Year’s celebrations… Although it’s wonderful that orphans nowadays don’t lack in any way materially, these kind actions are limited in their impact.
At Love’s Bridge we have gone several steps further in trying to better the lives of our local orphans by filling in the missing link between them and the rest of society – simple, human interaction.
Kids from orphanages come to Love’s Bridge with expectations. They come with wants, needs and desires. They come to us and watch to see what they can have. But in time they stop watching, and they start participating in the life of the centers, and this is our key to success. This is why the project, which is called ‘The Journey of Life’ is pretty self-explanatory!
The children who are currently coming to us are aged between six and fourteen. They’re all different, all special. Some come regularly, some hardly at all. Some are lost in thought and barely speak, others are desperate to talk but can’t find the words to talk about the issues that affect them… HIV, their past, their future…
Through working with their hands on simple projects such as paper-mache, the children start to relax and feel at home in the center and in our presence. With time and encouragement they start to talk – not as a group, but individually with our trained staff and volunteers who are able to deal sensitively to the their individual needs. Sometimes we go out for walks, and arm in arm, we talk, share our feelings, express our ideas and, well, just be ourselves – an experience rarely felt by a child growing up in institutional care. For once the child is not just another body in a large group, not a name that only gets called to be ordered about or told off, but a person – a human with feelings and thoughts that need to be expressed and engaged with.
Another tiny success in this project is shared work. In the past orphans have come to us with no idea how a cup of tea is made, or how to use a knife and fork. Simple life skills have been missed because in a large institution, everything is provided but not much is shared. We paid special attention to do everything with the group, rather than for the group. In time we noticed that instead of waiting for the table to be set for tea, one participant started doing it himself. Then another tidied up. Then the others picked up on it, and soon, instead of a group of observers and takers, we had a group of participants. It might seem like a meagre success, but these are the tiniest foundations being laid of a successful and independent adult life. Skills that you and I take for granted!
We hope that the success of this project will attract more volunteers to Love’s Bridge. When the children come to us with bright eyes and huge smiles on their faces, eager to get busy, we truly realise the huge value of simple, honest and heartfelt human interaction.
See more photos in the album.