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Fund of St Demetrius of Thessalonica (St Petersburg)

The St Petersburg Fund of St Demetrius of Thessalonica has worked since February 2003. It was founded by several St Petersburg companies. The president of the Fund is D.P.Zajtsev, its executive director is deacon Daniel Vasilevsky.

The Fund's main goal is to revive the moral basis of Russian society. It is not incidental that it was called in the name of saint martyr Demetrius who has been worshiped by Slavs since long. The Fund has united those who want to help their neighbour. People that work in the Fund are not mere staff but they are Christians, to begin with, who want to use their efforts for the sake of those who are in pain, who have lost any hope, who have turned away from God. Reviving Russian traditions of charity, the Fund helps children's hospitals, children from families with low income, orphanages, non-governmental asylums, families with many children and homeless.

The main areas of work of the Fund are as follows:

  • Programme of help to the homeless My Neighbour
  • Programme of help to sick children Children at Hospital
  • Programme Support to Motherhood and Childhood
  • Abortion prevention programme Life.

Programme of help to the homeless My Neighbour

About 54,000 homeless live today in the city streets. This number includes only those who are registered with the City station, which counts citizens of the Russian Federation without a permanent place of residence. We assume that their number is up to 100,000 people.

The mass of homeless is enlarged, first, by those who were deceived by flat swindlers; second, people from other cities who lost their documents as a result of theft, trickery or robbery; third, the released from penitentiary institutions who have lost their registration. Nowadays people in the street are not only those who have decided to leave home, but also those who were driven out of home. There are many cases when mentally disabled people are deprived of their lodgings: some of them live with their relatives or parents till a certain age, and then when the later die, they stay alone without care. Many of them end up in the street.

It has been found out that the man lives, as a rule, not more than three years in the street. Then he falls ill, there are many cases of chilblain. Homeless people often look drunken. Indeed they begin to take alcohol living in the street because they miss the basic feeling of comfort. They are driven out from everywhere, there is some danger awaiting for them everywhere. There have been cases when employees of the law enforcement bodies take their documents away from them.

It should be said that our fund tries to help the disabled homeless people because they are, first, most vulnerable, second, while the man can still walk he often tends not to come for our help and hopes to arrange his own life. On the one hand, we try to prolong his life and cure his body, on the other, we try to bring the man to Church before his death so that he dies with God.

The fund works with the homeless according to the following procedure:

  • Identify a homeless in the street;
  • Sanitize him (if necessary);
  • Deliver to hospital (if he needs medical aid);
  • Take care of the patient while he is at hospital (provide him with medicines, food and collect him from the hospital before he turns out in the street);
  • Have him registered with the City station which keeps record of Russian citizens without a permanent place of residence;
  • Look for a shelter at one of few non-governmental organizations or send the person to the place of his last registration;
  • Provide the homeless with food and warm clothes;
  • Assist with expensive medical treatment (surgery).

In the evenings the fund's bus circulates the city with food for the homeless. A young man in the bus is priest Jacob Guliako who baptizes and gives communion to all those who wish.

There are very few shelters for the homeless in our city, and this is the most serious problem for the staff of the fund. Actually, there are the shelter Nochlezhka and several more municipal shelters with a limited number of beds. The number of the homeless in the city far exceeds the number of places for them. Besides, to be placed in an asylum the homeless should have a complete set of documents, which they usually do not have.

If the person is sick, he can be placed in a city medical institution; but he can stay there for treatment no longer than 14 days under the rules of mandatory medical insurance. Then the hospital has to discharge him, and the homeless still being unwell, often after a surgery, finds himself in the street. Many homeless people find themselves in hospital with frost-bitten limbs which are amputated there, and then, following the law, the hospital has to discharge the person. Thus the crippled person turns out in the street.

The Fund plans to organize a small asylum for the homeless where they will find shelter, material, medical, psychological and spiritual help. Currently we are looking for an appropriate house or a plot of land in the Leningrad Oblast, although money for implementation of the project has not been collected yet.

The Fund also plans to launch a big night bus, which will deliver food and clothes to people. At frosts a homeless person will be able to spend a night there and thus avoid chilblain. This bus will also allow to render hygiene and medical aid to the homeless.

Programme of help to sick Children at Hospital

The Fund has helped to Children's city hospital No. 2 of St Mary Magdalene since 2004. We began our work there with the staff of the hospital: we took the doctors in several pilgrimages to the island of Valaam and to the Pskov Cave monastery, organized concerts of the Valaam monastery choir on Church feasts, greeting the children at hospital on the feasts of the Nativity of Christ and Easter we did the same for the staff's children. Our friendship with the hospital and its head doctor Avtandil G. Mikava began when the fund gave it a haemodialysis device. In 2005-2006 the Fund of St Demetrius financially supported the construction of a church in the name of St Mary Magdalene on the territory of the hospital, which was consecrated on May 23rd, 2007.

The diagnostics of newly born babies with deafness is an important field of help to children. In our attempts to cure our children of running noses and otitis we got acquainted with a wonderful doctor, professor Sergey G. Zhuravsky whose professional interest has brought him to the examination of newly born babies to identify deafness.

Modern study in children's audiology shows that early children's prelingual deafness is 1 case per every 1,000-1,500 babies up to the age of 1 year in Russia; however this indicator for St Petersburg exceeds the average for some unknown reasons and amounts to 1 case per 850-1,000 children.

The problem is topical because the overwhelming majority of young patients with geneogenous bradyacuasia living outside the major cities (Moscow and St Petersburg) do not receive timely and highly qualified medical help. This is due to an insufficient technical and diagnostic base.

The place in the brain of a newly born baby responsible for the formation of hearing develops very quickly, during the first 12 -18 months. It is necessary to make the diagnosis in time, because a late diagnostics (after 12 months) of geneogenous deafness leads to an uncorrectable loss of speech hearing and mental retardation. The best possible variant is diagnostics of hearing disorder when the baby is not older than 6-8 months, while the auditory cortex has not formed yet. Deafness prevention undertaken after modern hearing testing diagnostics can be done with the help of a deaf-aid.

The problem is that families encountering their child's hearing disorder are with low income. The purchase of a deaf-aid -which is between 5 and 15 thousand roubles depending on the required capacity - is an unsolvable problem for them as a rule. The municipal and oblast audiologic centres have very meagre resources to purchase deaf-aids, or have none at all. The problem of bradyacuasia prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in the rural regions of the North Western region is especially urgent: standards of living there are much lower than in urban areas. It should be mentioned that people with purely Slavonic background run a higher risk of giving birth to a deaf child than mixed marriages.

The Fund of St Demetrius of Thessalonica and the speech and hearing laboratory of the Pavlov Research Centre (St Petersburg) have worked out a programme Prevention of Early Children's Deafness. The programme envisages diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation of deafness among newly born babies in the North Western region of Russia.

To implement the programme the Fund is raising money to purchase equipment for objective diagnostics of babies' hearing and deaf-aids for low-income families, as well as to organize field examinations.

There are plans to go to Pskov, Velikie Luki and to the boarding school for deaf and hearing impaired children in the village of Pytalovo, the Pskov Oblast. The boarding school in Pytalovo hosts 120 deaf children; it will also be a diagnostics centre for deaf children from the whole North-West as well as the Pskov Oblast Children's Hospital. The plan envisages examination of hearing challenged children in this region to make a clear diagnosis, provide medical consultation and provide an opportunity to the examined to plan future life (for example, to get information about future children). The examination team will include a doctor, two teachers, a speech therapist and psychologist. The audiologic diagnostics of children will be complemented by special work with children and their parents by a psychologist and social worker who will help to get the children integrated in society.

Programme Support to Motherhood and Childhood

The share of families with many children in our country today is not high. These families are in a rather difficult situation, primarily, from the financial point of view. Allowances for children are too small and incomparable with the minimum subsistence level; the absence of any help from the state pushes families with many children to the level of survival. Families with many children are often incomplete: as a rule they consist of a mother with children, which in many cases has happened because of the death of the breadwinner. There are cases when the head of the family has left his kin because of different reasons. The mother with the children has enough strength only to take care of the children, but not to earn and support the family financially: the family finds itself in a very difficult situation.

The Fund lends support to families with many children in several directions. The Fund has opened a hotline (currently it operates from a mobile phone). The line is operated by three persons, one after another, without days off. During the first minute of a conversation the consultant learns the name of the calling woman, her age and occupation to speak the language, which is understandable for her. Then the staff try to find out problems that bother the calling person, and if possible the fund helps. The Fund provides monthly material support to poor families and payment for housing, if the family finds itself in the street; the Fund finances, if it can, medical treatment of such children, helps with the payment for their education, covers the stay at health centres for the children, etc.

The mothers are rendered psychological support. Sometimes it is enough to speak with the person and she relaxes understanding that she is not on her own.

The programme involves 5 full-time staff and several volunteers. All in all, the programme takes care of about 40 families some of which have been getting support since 2002. The monthly amount of help is not large, 2,000-5,000 roubles.

The Funs has plans to extend its support to families with many children in the future in several directions:

  • Extend the number of families with many children which will receive financial and other help;
  • Joint trips of the families organized by the fund - this will allow to bring people closer to each other so that they could support each other;
  • Assistance with the employment of the parents to make it possible for the family to earn more for living.

Abortion prevention programme Life

Russia has experienced a nearly twofold reduction of the birth rate over the past 15 years, currently it is one of the lowest in Europe. The population in our country will total 138.2 million people as of early 2011, and by 2050 it will go down to mere 75 - 100 million people, the majority of which will be pensioners, according to State Committee for Statistics' forecast.

A high level of abortions is one of the factors contributing to the reduction of the birth rate. Daily thirteen thousand women have abortions done in Russia! Quite often pregnant women decide to do this being in a critical situation and being left one-to-one with their problems. The Fund's task is not only to help these women to save life in such a situation, but to save it to the unborn baby as well.

The Fund has opened a permanent hotline since 2006. It is operated by qualified psychologists and social workers. They receive 5 to 20 phone calls every month; about 80 persons called the line during the year. It does not seem a lot at first, but all of those who turned were in really critical situations. It is necessary to persuade a woman that there is a way out of any situation, that she is not alone and there are people who are ready to help her. A phone call may take from 2 minute to one and a half hours, depending on the situation. As a rule the woman is invited for a meeting in person after such a talk. However there are cases when a phone conversation is enough.

As a rule the women who have called fall under temporary or permanent care of the fund after they have come for a meeting in person and collected necessary documents. They are given not only moral, but also material and spiritual support. The staff of the Fund helps them to solve social problems of the woman, but also talk about God with them. It is such a joy to see the fruits of this work!

The Prevention of Abortions programme is not limited to the hotline for the pregnant. The Fund disseminates information about psychological and physiological consequences of abortions and leave leaflets with the hotline phone number in maternity welfare centres. The information is spread in the form of fliers, stickers, printed, video and audio materials. Fifteen people work in 25 maternity welfare centres, video displays were installed in two of them. They show films: The Miracle of Life; Who is Rocking the Cradle; Fall, My Love, Asleep, and others. These films tell about pre-natal development of a baby, about consequences of an abortion, and about traditional family values. Those women who come to a maternity welfare centre can learn this useful information while waiting in line. It is necessary that the woman should be aware that she becomes a murderer of her baby when she has her abortion done. The more anti-abortion information is spread the more babies can be saved.

Higher educational institutions of the city were not left without attention. A basic video course Family, Motherhood and Childhood Support was prepared for them; the videos are on Christian marriage and the joy of motherhood. One educational video course at the Gertsen University led to a considerable increase in the number of phone calls to the hotline.

Unfortunately the staff of the Fund encounter resistance from the staff of the maternity welfare centres when disseminating information about abortions in the form of leaflets, pamphlets and showing films on the video displays.

The Fund plans several fields of abortion prevention:

  • Regular video courses at the city's higher educational institutions;
  • Expansion of the number of maternity welfare and youth centres where the anti-abortion leaflets and pamphlets will be distributed;
  • Social advertising campaign in the city streets on abortion prevention;
  • Information stands in maternity welfare centres.

The Fund in the name of St Demetrius of Thessalonica takes part in international anti-abortion conferences, in the all-city conference of obstetricians, in the Moscow round table discussions on abortion prevention. There are plans to participate in the Our Lady Readings in the nearest future.

Deacon Daniel Vasilevsky

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