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.
The short Perm summer is in full swing and our kids have already got something to share about their vacations.
They started with two camps that we held in June, in the city.
The first one was called “I’m proud of Perm”. For two weeks 17 children and teenagers were hosted there. In the first part of the day they participated in educational activities and classes about the history and sights of their home city. And after lunch, which was very important for some of the children who don’t have regular nourishing meals at home, they went out on to an excursion or activity outdoors. They visited the Art museum, discussed films after a visit to the cinema, took part in the environment protection campaign cleaning the river bank, etc.
We had a chat with our new psychologist Olga Zhdanova, and asked for her impressions of life in the Love’s Bridge centers:
It’s winter and getting colder by the day… but in the centers it always seems cozy and warm. That is thanks to the children who come to us every day: their energy knows no bounds, their enthusiasm, curiosity and desire to be around us and with each other is overwhelming. I love observing the children growing and changing every day, right before our eyes. They learn to be organized and responsible young people. But we must always bear in mind that they are still children! We should not expect them to become too serious!
Taking the age and background of the children into consideration, we have to be careful in choosing our methods of working with them. For example, when talking about health problems, trying to strike fear into them is absolutely pointless! Talking about the terrible consequences of smoking has absolutely no effect on these children whatsoever. It is only by giving the children a positive example, and educating them on the whole picture of a healthy lifestyle, that they are empowered to make choices for themselves that will positively impact their own future, and their families too. We do our best to help each child learn and develop at their own speed, and most importantly, enable them to know when and how they are going in the right direction! It is only through this independence that they can improve themselves, their situation, and their future chances in life.
More school without lessons
With the start of the new school year in September came the re-opening of our own “School without Lessons”. Our innovative project, which is now in its third year, is growing from strength to strength. The project coordinator Oksana is now working with 14 pairs of volunteers and children, who work together up to three times a week on a wide variety of school subjects. Our volunteer mentors use a wide range of interactive activities in order to gain their mentees’ interest in the subject, and inspire them to work hard at their subjects.
We have seen great results in the participants’ school grades, and have had very positive responses from participants’ parents and school teachers. We are also working hard to develop relations with local businesses and organizations, and give the participants a taste of what career they might go into with the skills they are developing at school. We are expecting even more children to come to us for help in the coming months, and are always on the look-out for new volunteers!
As you may know, many of the young people in our care previously haven’t had the opportunity to have a healthy or meaningful break during the long school holidays.
So far this summer we have run two thematic urban summer camps dedicated to inspiring and supporting kids who would otherwise be spending the long summer days left to their own devices on the streets. The first camp was a development course aimed at teenagers who have a variety of different personal problems, similar to the work we do throughout the year to help children and teenagers in need to deal with the difficulties that life throws at them. The summer camp gave us the opportunity to work intensively with a small group of teens over the course of two weeks. The course, “The Person I Am”, went through topics such as family and friendship, confidence, conflict resolution and lifestyle issues. The aim of the course was to get the young participants to look at their future and think about their relationships with family, friends and those around them.
Here’s what Denis (13 years old) thought about the camp:
I´ve been coming to the Love´s Bridge center since March. I really like it here. The staff are all very kind. I´ve met lots of new friends here as well. At the start of summer I was invited to come to the city summer camp, every day from Monday to Friday! First we do some exercises to wake up, then do some activities and classes. We can talk to the psychologist if we want. Then we have some food and at the end have all kinds of fun events. I really enjoyed it!