**Please note that since writing this article we received the devastating news that Sveta's son Vadim, age 9, passed away in January after developing pneumonia. He had severe cerebral palsy which made him extra vulnerable.
We can only imagine the heartbreak she and her two younger children are going through and we ask you to pray for them. Galina, her mentor, is supporting Sveta emotionally, along with all the mums from the orphan mums' support group.
Sveta lives in poverty so affording Vadim's funeral is proving difficult. Donate to our 'women and children's fund' to contribute to his funeral costs and help other vulnerable mums in their time of need.**
Today, we'd like to tell you about Sveta. She lives on the 9th floor in poverty and isolation with a disabled child. (names changed for privacy).
We have known Sveta (28 yo), for many years. Until the age of 14, she lived in one of the worst Russian orphanages imaginable. The director was a dishonest man who hoarded equipment meant for the children. Cabbage and potatoes was the daily diet. The girls, who were outnumbered by boys, were physically abused. Sveta was then sent to a substandard college to learn cookery but never found a job as a result.
Like so many female orphans, she met an older man immediately after college and was soon expecting a baby. This baby was born both physically and mentally disabled. Vadim, now 10, is unable to walk or feed himself.
We went to visit Sveta and her children in a dilapidated part of the city.
Sveta welcomed us into her tiny flat on the ninth floor of a dark, smelly, graffitied tower block; her six month old baby in her arms and five year old daughter at her feet. Behind was Vadim, in his standing apparatus which takes up most of the floor in the only room accessible to him. Rocking the baby in her arms, Sveta told us she feels trapped in her flat and ‘going out’ means stepping onto the tiny balcony for some ‘fresh’ air.
The flat was as sad as its surroundings; dirty walls and decrepit furniture. Just three small rooms are this family’s world; a bedroom where all five of them sleep, a bathroom and a poorly equipped kitchen with a small broken sofa.
We passed on clothing gifts from Love Russia supporters. Our hearts melted as her little girl excitedly changed into her new top and socks straight away.
Sveta battles with alcohol problems. Having seen the conditions she lives in; the confinement and monotony... it’s easy to see why she struggles. Her mentor Galina is doing her best to help. She is one of only a few people who is concerned for this family's welfare and gives food and medicine. She visits Sveta often and encourages her to come to the support group but finding someone to look after Vadim is difficult.
The day before this visit, we'd also visited Olga and her disabled son. It was deflating and sad to see two orphan mums in such dire circumstances.
We were developing a pretty grim picture of life for Russian families in severe poverty...especially for those parenting severely disabled children.
Since our trip we have asked ourselves - what can be done?
We MUST keep supporting people like Alina and Galina who have befriended families like this and offer a life-line to the outside and show them they are not forgotten.
We can support through specific gifts; pushchairs that enable mums like Sveta to leave the house and sensory toys to help stimulate children whose lives are so confined.
DONATE TO SUPPORT VULNERABLE FAMILIES LIKE SVETA’S
For the future, we pray that a support group especially for families of disabled children can be established, so mums can have a few hours of regular freedom and time to spend nurturing their other children... that they will know they are not alone.