Russia – January 10 2018 Determined to move towards a brighter future Until recently, this cramped room in Saint Petersburg, Russia, was Andrej’s (5) home. He lived here with his mother, grandmother and three sisters in an apartment shared with another family. Now, his family has moved on to a more suitable home – and a brighter future. Andrej’s mother, Nika was determined to change her family’s fate. Their living situation not only put great strain on the single mother and her children; it almost broke up the family. The lack of space, reinforced by her mother’s compulsive hoarding habits, and mould throughout the apartment, led local authorities to suggest that the children – aged two to 12 – be placed in institutional care. But Nika was determined to fight for her family. She applied for SOS Children’s Villages’ family strengthening support to find new ways of coping with the difficult situation she was in – and to avoid being separated from her children. Eventually, Nika was able to turn her family’s fate around. After the father abandoned the family, Nika struggled both financially and emotionally. Immediate impact SOS Children’s Villages Russia started supporting the family through various activities. One of the main concerns was improving the family’s immediate living conditions. A SOS social worker visited the old apartment and gave recommendations on how to create a healthier environment by getting rid of the mould and reorganising the family’s furniture and belongings. When the family strengthening team contacted the child welfare authorities to reconsider their judgement, they agreed to give the family some time to implement the necessary changes. Temperatures were so cold in the old apartment, the family had to lie their jackets on top of the duvet to keep warm. The next step was to help Nika find a new job. She had been working as a cleaner, which involved long hours and put strain on the relationship with her children. When Nika got the opportunity to apply for a job at “Spasibo”, a local clothing-shop and partner of SOS Children’s Villages, the team helped her prepare her CV and rehearse for the interview. The preparation paid off – Nika got the job. As Nika wanted to work on her parenting skills, she also enrolled in psychological counselling to improve the relationship with the children. “When life is difficult, it’s natural that everyone is just concerned with their own survival. But now we can continue as a family”, says Nika. “My mother used to scream a lot at us, but now she has stopped being angry. It feels really good, and I’m really grateful for my family. My mother is my best friend”, says Valeria, her oldest daughter. Nika looks out the window of the family’s new apartment When the local guardianship authorities visited the family to assess the progress, they acknowledged that Nika was able to take care of her children and that there was no need to break up the family. After making all the necessary changes in their lives, and waiting a few months for administrative processes, the family is now finally living in a new home. It is a three-bedroom apartment, which they do not have to share with another family.