Setting up an orphanage for orphaned girls, the nurse community was driven by a wish to render an initial help to at least a small part of these children. During their yet short lives, the children have seen a lot, acquiring numerous vices and diseases which we, the adults involved in the cause, could not have thought of encountering. All children have chronic diseases -- gastric ulcers, liver diseases, complications of previous diseases and various skin infections are often. Therefore, a therapist and medical nurses to provide an around-the-clock service, as well as expert defectologists, logopedists, and psychologists have been included in the orphanage personnel. Regular consultations of orphanage children with Moscow leading medical specialists have been arranged.
Life of the orphanage is a life of a large family which includes both adults and children. Regular school studies or preparation to school started for most of the girls for the first time. Girls are taught to cook, to do laundry, to make up rooms. They have regular music classes and lessons of rhythmics. Girls love to draw, make applique work, embroidery, sculpturing, poker work, construct from natural materials. With their own hands, they make presents for numerous guests. Girls look forward and prepare to orphanage holidays -- Christmas party, autumn and spring feasts; for these feasts they stage puppet plays based on Russian fairy tales. Birthdays and namedays of pupils and employees become common family holidays -- with presents and home-made pies. Parishioners and orphanage employees often invite children to their families. Girls, almost all of them for the first time in their life, visited the Zoo, museums, and the Children's Music Theater that often invites them. For recreation, they go to the country.
Setting up the orphanage we realized that without God's help there is no way to save these abandoned girls. It is only through life in Church, setting hope for God's mercy and intercession of Saints that one can help a little soul. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, a home church in the name of Martyrs Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov and their Mother Sofia was sanctified in the orphanage on April 9, 1994. It is noteworthy that, from the very beginning, our future pupils went under the heavenly patronage of these adolescents, their peers.
Girls started to visit church for the first time. Many of them were baptized in the orphanage home church. They learn basics of Orthodoxy both at the lessons of the Word of God and in everyday life. A Holy Liturgy and vespers on the eve of it are held in the home church two times a month. The children have gradually learned to sing church songs, and their initially discorded voices now tunefully sound in the prayer harmony in a euphonious choir during the service. In the morning and in the evening, the children perform a short prayer order in the church.
The life of the orphanage is closely linked with the Sisterhood. Pupils go to Sunday school in the hospital church, choosing occupations to their taste -- attending hobby groups for fine arts, church singing, and nursing. Our older pupils weekly come to the First City Hospital -- they clean up corridors, feed patients, read books to them. We witness how the cause of charity, in its turn, cures their crippled souls. On Christmas and on Holy Easter days, girls, along with church parishioners, congratulate children being treated in the Bakulev Institute, visit the House of Child, give concert performances to the pupils.
We have long-term, warm and friendly relations with these children institutions. Morning services in the orphanage home church are attended, besides orphanage pupils and employees, by children from the House of Child. Joint pilgrimage trips to spiritual historic centers of our Motherland also contribute to education of children. During these trips, girls write their joint journal, and on completion of trips they prepare a report, trying themselves in literature work and supplementing the story with photographs.
Each summer we go to the "Lesnoye" boarding house located on the bank of Volga, near the Romanov-Borisoglebsk town; a tent camp of the Brotherhood in the name of Savior the Merciful that the hospital church parish is a member to is located in the vicinity. Parishioners and pupils of the camp form a joint community living with common interests. Our older girls often move from the boarding house to summer camp tents to enjoy outdoor living. Each Sunday, we visit a church in the Bogoslovo village where Brotherhood priests perform Holy Liturgy. We go on walking tours, often arrange sport competitions and games. Our children visited holy and historic places of the Yaroslavl region. They participated in religious processions with the miracle-working icon of the "Holy Visage". They went to monasteries of Tolga and Rostov where, after performing obediences, attended the church service.
However, girls cannot stay in the orphanage for more than a month -- these are state-defined conditions for holding children in the orphanage. Meanwhile, in the majority of cases we fail to maintain a succession of children Orthodox religious upbringing and education in a new boarding school or a children's home. And for the girls, many of which had the feeling of God for the first time, this move from one world to another seems unfeasible. The only way to help them is to provide them with an opportunity to grow up in an Orthodox environment, in a children's home under Church trusteeship.
At the moment, the Sisterhood opens a St. Dimitry children's home for girls that would house 40 pupils. The main part of them are the girls who will live in the children's house until they come of age. A two-story building provided by the state is insufficient to house the girls. A project to overhaul and reconstruct the building has been developed. The project involves construction of an additional mansard and arrangement of a home church. A charter of the children's home has been registered, bank accounts have been opened, and still we cannot come down to construction -- there is no money. We appeal for your help to help build a cozy home for 40 homeless girls, where with the God's help they would regain the lost joy of childhood.
deacon Aleksandr Dokolin
Today's pupils of the orphanage that now number 9 are girls of various age (ranging from 5 to 15) having different albeit tragic fates. All of them have been baptized, they believe in God, some of them were living in the monastery before the orphanage was founded. Indeed, it was their living in the monastery that gave an impetus to organize the orphanage where these poor creatures rejected by the society may be guarded against crisis situations and psychological stresses of their previous life, and eventually provided with a chance of clean, cozy, warm and safe living, and -- which is the most important -- living in Faith. Girls are brought up by monastery sisters who have professional pedagogic, medical, musical, and artistic training. Everyday, every hour, every minute they do their utmost for the children, giving them their Christian love, kindness and warmth of their hearts. All rooms of the orphanage, albeit small ones, are filled with home warmth and coziness, gratifying the eye with a lively interior, abundance of toys, colors and pencils, and Orthodox literature. Girls' everyday life is organized so that there is room for studies and recreation, feasible labor and prayer, children's games, reading and drawing.
Unfortunately, the life of the orphanage is also filled with hardships. This specifically relates to the educational process. Psychological and physical conditions of the pupils would now allow to teach them in general public schools. Therefore the educational process is being carried out within the orphanage walls, with quarterly evaluation of the obtained knowledge in school. Sisters having professional pedagogic training teach children on an individual basis, and this presents no problems. Meanwhile, the main difficulties relate to the lack of rooms even for 9 children, since, under the sanitary norms, the class room may house only four persons. It is the lack of required premises that prevents the orphanage from obtaining a license for educational activities. At the moment the issue of extension of the orphanage is crucial, since dozens of private persons and organizations apply to us asking to admit unfortunate children, and we have to turn these requests down. Meanwhile, the experience of children Orthodox education gained in the monastery, and the presence of monastery sisters having professional pedagogic training suggest that the orphanage may undertake education of at least 40 to 50 pupils.
Just as noteworthy is the fact that, during the time the monastery exists, its sisters acquired various repair and construction skills which they may successfully use in construction of a new orphanage block. Thus, the main problem the orphanage faces is construction of a special block that would house the orphanage. Therefore, monastery sisters, hoping for God's kindness and patronage of Saint Nikolas the Miracle-Worker, appeal for help to everyone who could make a feasible contribution in the cause of caring for unfortunate children to let them acquire their home in the orphanage and obtain education in Orthodox traditions based on the highest humane ethic ideals.
May God protect you!
Abbess of the St. Nikolas Women's MonasteryTelephone for contacts: (08431) 3-19-69
Mother Superior Nikolaya
With time, cooperation among state and Orthodox Church bodies has widened and deepened. In the early 1995, extension of institution functions allowed to transform it into a social rehabilitation center and an orphanage. Average number of personnel in the institution amounted to 60. For the period of its existence, the orphanage and the Center rendered social assistance to 280 children, teenagers and young people. Of them, handicaped amounted to over 60 percent. One hundred and eighty five children were returned to parents' families; 23 children were transferred to educational institutions; 35 children were placed for education in new families; jobs were found for 8 children; at the moment the stationary section and the social hostel of the Center houses 29 persons. Besides the stationary section (orphanage), the Center has a section for implementation of social rehabilitation programs including family educational groups; an educational and corrective section with the following subsections: home school, rehabilitation production workshops and a part-time farm; there is also a daytime department, a social hostel, and a reception department.
The St.-Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy is in a special charge of the orphanage. Starting from 1993, the Theological Academy Social Diaconia Service -- the Orthodox Charitable Brotherhood in the Name of St. Anastassia -- renders various assistance to the Center. With no charge, members of the brotherhood reveal those in need of social protection, exercise social patronage over orphanage graduates and crisis families, carry out work to strengthen families, select potential trustees and adopters, held lessons of aesthetic education of children. Brotherhood efforts allowed to partially equip woodworker, locksmith, and motor workshops that will soon start to operate; a joint library is being created. The Brotherhood gratuitously passed to the orphanage a living house and its land site in the Pushkinogorsky region of the Pskov oblast, where the orphanage part-time farm is being developed. The St.-Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy gratuitously passed a significant part of the building of the former Synodal Estate in the Vassilievsky Island.
In October, 1994, an Agreement on joint activities in the field of social protection of children and teenagers was signed between the "House of Mercy" and the Theological Academy. The Agreement as formally approved by the management of the Committee for Social Problems of the St.-Petersburg Mayor Office. In 1995 and 1996 signed were, respectively, a Protocol of intentions and an Agreement on cooperation signed between the Ministry of Social Security of the Russian Federation and the Russian Orthodox Church in the interests of social development of Russia between His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia and Minister of Social Security L.F. Bezlepkina. These documents allowed to sign an Agreement on cooperation between the Committee for Social Problems of the St.-Petersburg Mayor Office and the Theological Academy. Under the Agreement, the sphere of interaction of state structures and the Russian Orthodox Church in the field of social protection of children's interests extends significantly.
In May, 1996, the Center developed and submitted to the Ministry of Social Security and the Committee for Social Problems a program of social rehabilitation aimed, on the one hand, at extension of the sphere of activity of the Center and, on the other hand, at attraction of Orthodox people to the cause of rendering help to homeless children. Meanwhile, the need in such help has never been greater. According to official data, 18,000 neglected children were revealed in St.-Petersburg in the beginning of 1996. The number of children who have lost their homes through the fault of their parents, as well as the number of physical and psychological violence victims grow steadily. This phenomenon stems from the growth of criminogenic trends in the society, transactions with apartments committed against the law, excessive use of alcohol and drugs, and deterioration of environmental conditions in the city which entails growth of latent diseases. According to Committee for Social Problems data, the major part of orphans -- about 92 percent -- are so-called "social orphans", that is the children deprived of parental care.
The share of handicaped children and children with limited health caused by continuous malnutrition, starvation, and psychic exhaustion grows in the general amount of neglected children. As a rule, such children have not been observed in polyclinics from the moment they were born. Their behavior features an explicitly pronounced nervousness, aggression, extremely weakened will. These children are less adaptive in the society. They take the way of life of their alcoholic parents as a social model. For these children, a norm becomes social and everyday unsettlement. For us, the Orthodox believers, the first task to face and resolve in the cause of help rendered to neglected children is to create an Orthodox educational environment that forms child's attitude to the nearest world that surrounds him, to reality. This environment is created by the people living in it and the tenor of their life. For children who have acquired an extremely negative experience in attitude to the nearest, who see the point of life in an ability to gain profit with no means barred, such an environment of openness, lenience and understanding has -- especially at the first stage -- greater importance than numerous special psycho-corrective techniques.
A special concern of the Center is to find families that would undertake guardianship over orphaned children replacing parents for them. We have found 29 such families; six children have been taken under guardianship. In our view, setting up Life Support Teams in village areas is one of promising forms to arrange life of Center graduates. A Life Support Team is an community where teenagers and young people, including handicaped, who have no living quarters or life means live and work. Such a team has already been founded in the Pskov oblast. Starting from 1995, 8 older pupils of the Center live and work there. Another line in children care is creation of so-called Personal Support Groups, i.e. groups containing one or two children who are pupils of the Center and one or several adult volunteers who help children in various vital issues and situations. Such help is essential for a man entering life. Adult brothers and sisters come to visit the child, establish friendly relations with him, and take him to the church becoming his perceivers and tutors and praying for him.
Director of the Center
Nikitin V.M.Telephone for contacts: (812) 514-54-02
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