Monday, August 23rd, 2010

SOS Children’s Village – Pushkin, Russia

A quick update from the road by Ant Lillingston, a Planner at b2b agency, gyro who is traveling from London to Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia raising £10,000 for a number of children’s charities. Check out http://www.thedoodlecar.com

We arrived almost an hour late from St Petersburg partly due to unaccounted for, rush-hour traffic but also because the 8 different locals we had stopped and asked guidance had sent us in complete opposite directions.

Never-the-less, we were prepared this time. On arrival we pulled out the doodle scroll, the Sharpie markers and the gifts from Dodo Pad. As is now almost expected, the kids hands flew in and the doodling / scribbling ensued. Though each of our visits so far have been different the kids enthusiasm never wains. The Doodle Car keeps them entertained for about an hour and at this point we usually go on a tour of the village and bombard the director and staff with questions.

However, once we’d finished our doodling, the Village Director gathered the village around and gave a short speech thanking us for our support of the SOS Children’s Villages presented us with a framed letter, an incredible painting by one of the kids and a bag of SOS goodies. We were speechless, and still are.

We were then taken, for the first time, to one of the village houses for traditional Russian tea. Over butter and fish eggs on bread, we discussed how circumstances in recent history have allowed more than one million children to become orphans (consider that Russia has a population of only 140 million). Elena explained how it became almost acceptable to hand your child to the state and therefore parents started not to take responsibility for their children. This attitude has snowballed and is now ingrained in Russian society. It will take a seismic shift in attitude to change this way of thinking.

This visit gave us a much fuller understanding of how and why so many children grow up with out parents in Russia. It was over tea that a stark reality hit home; out of approximately 1 million orphans living in Russia, only a small few are privileged enough to find themselves placed in an SOS Children’s Village. These kids are the ones who are more likely to achieve in life but we can’t help but think that what we’re seeing merely scratches the surface of a much larger issue.

All that’s stopping them helping more orphans like the ones in Pushkin is the financial backing from donations. To support SOS Children’s Villages please back our project and donate here.

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