Family Strengthening – 18 April 2018

Building a stronger family together

Inna* was pregnant with her sixth child when she and her husband separated. Desperate for help, she turned to the nearby SOS Children's Village in Brovary, Ukraine. Inna says that the organisation has helped her become a better parent and has made her children stronger.

“I was a mother hen type of parent,” Inna says with a smile. “I had to have everything and everyone in my family under control.”

 

Inna married young and moved with her husband into two rooms of her parents’ house in Brovary, an eastern suburb of Kiev. They were poor, but managed to make ends meet and provide for their five children. Though the sixth pregnancy was unexpected, Inna looked forward to the new child.

 

Then her husband left. Inna speaks about him in positive terms explaining that he has a highly stressful job. “He sends child support,” Inna says. “We don’t talk about divorce in front of the children. He’s their dad and they love him. I think that he needs psychological counselling, but he thinks he's strong and can handle any issue on his own. Still, we kept a good relation.”

 

In 2016, unemployed and pregnant, Inna went to SOS Children’s Village Brovary to ask if they could spare some second-hand clothing and food. There she met Luba, a social worker, who offered to enrol Inna and her children in the family strengthening programme.“

 

I became interested when Luba explained that my children could attend various workshops and get psychological counselling free of charge. Given our situation, I thought it would be good for them to talk to a professional and have activities to take their minds off our family situation,” says Inna.

 

‘Stronger personalities’

The change with her children came fast. Boguslav, the eldest and 17 at the time, started talking at home about wanting to continue his education with university studies. Despite his mother’s initial pessimism due to the family’s financial situation, Boguslav wouldn’t give up on his plans.

The other children followed suit. Yelena became active in the school council. Oksana discovered her passion for drawing. Andriy fell in love with playing the bayan, an accordion-like traditional instrument, while young Oleksey started excelling at school.

The five siblings became more vocal at home about their need to have their own space and for their opinions to be taken into account. “They didn’t misbehave or disobey me,” Inna explains. “They were suddenly just stronger personalities.”

Baffled by the change, Inna asked if she could get psychological counselling herself. "[The counselling] literally helped me keep my sanity. I had already given birth to Serhiy and couldn’t look for work. I was depressed and constantly stressed about providing food for tomorrow. I felt that as a single mother I must hover over them. I didn't realise my attitude wasn't helping their independence.”

After a year, Boguslav, the oldest son, enrolled in university. He’s now in the second year of studying automotive engineering and lives in a students’ dorm in Kiev. At the same time, he is working in various part time jobs to support himself and to help his family. “Yes, I have a busy schedule, but the hardest part is that I don’t get to come home as much as I want to,” he says.

Boguslav explains that the psychological counselling helped him and his siblings the most. “We learned how to talk to each other. It helped with understanding and accepting the relations in our family and dealing with our feelings. It's not so painful for us now to talk about our dad. We have a good relationship with him. Mom changed too, but to me she was always ideal …,” he smiles.

A new job

With the help of SOS Children’s Villages, Inna recently found a part time job as a nurse in a nearby hospital. This brought great relief to the family because they no longer struggle to meet their basic needs.

 

Luba, the family’s social worker from SOS Children’s Villages, says she's confident that the family will be fully independent in a year’s time. “The children and Inna are on a good path and there's no stopping them,” Luba says. “The older children will soon take part in a youth advocacy group [of SOS Children's Villages] and I'm sure their strong voice will make a difference for more young people.”

 

Inna says that through SOS Children's Villages she learned how to make her children stronger. “I stopped being afraid for my children. I learned how to trust them. I learned how to encourage them to find their own solutions. I grew stronger because my children grew stronger.”

 

*The names of all family members are changed due to privacy.