Ukraine – December 14 2017

“For the first time, I felt someone really cares about us”

Opening new perspectives for a Ukrainian family

14-year-old Yevgeniy encouraged his parents to reach out for support.

Yevgeniy* is a boy of few words. He lives in Kiev with his two siblings and his parents, who quietly struggled to provide for their three children. It was Yevgeniy who started looking for a way out of the desperation his family was facing.

“Yevgeniy urged us to contact SOS Children’s Villages,” says his mother Inna. Yevgeniy became curious about the IT classes his schoolmate was taking at SOS Children's Villages. One day, he went to see what the classes were about. When he saw how the SOS family strengthening programme not only supports children with their computer literacy, but also their parents through a range of activities, he felt that his family could also benefit from this type of support. “You have to go, they can really help us,” he told his mother when he came home.

Yevgeniy with his mother and his little brother. The father is at work during the day.

At first, Inna was reluctant to visit the office of SOS Children's Villages in Kiev. “Life taught me not to rely on strangers,” she says. Now she is glad that she reached out for support. “I’m so glad Yevgeniy pushed me.”

Changing perspectives

“I was only going to ask for help with school for my children, Yevgeniy, Igor and Ganna,” Inna adds. “There I met Yaroslava, a social worker. She asked about our life, about our struggles. She really listened. She asked me if I would like to work. For the first time in my life, I felt someone really cares about us.”

SOS family strengthening also includes school support for Yevgeniy’s brother Igor.

Yaroslava made a concrete proposal: SOS Children's Villages would provide material help such as food packages and hygiene items, school supplies and after-school tutoring for the children, and job training for Inna. At the same time, the parents would have to commit to doing their best to improve the family’s situation according to a mutually-agreed family development plan.

“No one had such faith in us before,” says Inna. “I had no idea how we were going to go on, but I was already feeling hopeful.”

SOS Children’s Villages’ social worker Yaroslava and Yevgeniy’s parents agreed on a plan on how to improve the family’s situation.

The parents began seeing a psychologist and the children enrolled in various activities including computer classes, creativity workshops and after-school tutoring. The wave of positive changes took Inna by surprise. “The children would come home happy. My husband and I talked to each other. We enjoyed our time together and spoke about the future. We never did that before.”

Shaping the future

Yaroslava offered Inna the opportunity to pursue the necessary training to become a cosmetic consultant. “When I heard myself say ‘yes’, I got cold sweat.” She asked herself: “What am I doing? Am I in over my head?”

Yevgeniy also started to think about his own future and attended career counselling through one of SOS Children’s Villages’ partners. There, he discovered his passion for cooking and even got the opportunity to do practice work in a restaurant’s kitchen during the summer. He loved the experience. “After this, I know I want to become a chef,” he says.

“I have a long way to go,” Yevgeniy adds. “I have to finish school and keep on practicing.”

Yevgeniy is a passionate cook and loves preparing meals for his family.

Yevgeniy often cooks for his family, even if they only have a modest kitchen. “I would really love to bake, but we don't have an oven,” he says. “Also, one day I hope to have a spice garden. I think it's so cool that when you add just a little bit of something, you can turn a plain dish into the tastiest delicacy.”

Yevgeniy prepares delicious meals in the family’s modest kitchen.

While Yevgeniy started making plans for the future, his mother also became more confident and discovered a whole new world - in the city where she was born. . “I never knew how big Kiev was,” she says. “I began mingling with people, talking, listening. I saw that I can learn and it made me feel great.”

SOS Children's Villages continues to support the family.

“Our goal is for Inna to have a full-time job to stabilise the family’s income,” explains Yaroslava. “For the children it’s essential that they continue to receive help with school even if the family achieves financial independence, because the parents’ combined income won’t be enough for the tutoring they need. But for me, the biggest achievement is that they want to change their life for the better. I see a new glow, a new spark of hope in their eyes which wasn’t there when I first met them."
*All names changed for privacy protection

All photos by Katerina Ilievska