Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice

Somehow Grandfather Frost doesn’t come to drug users’ families…


Text: Anastasiya Kuzina 

Translation: Alec Khachatrian

Sourse: Andrey Rylkov Foundation Blog at Radio Echo of Moscow website

Last Friday, a small but nice group, families of drug users with their children, came to the Moscow Planetarium. Since the New Year, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation has begun a new project: events for children. The visit to the Planetarium was the first in the series of these events, and after two days the same group visited the legendary Experimentanium.

But it all began with Grandfather Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa.

“Once we realized that Grandfather Frost somehow doesn’t come to drug users’ families,” says Maxim Malyshev, one of the Foundation’s coordinators. “So we got the gifts and the costumes and went to celebrate with the families that our Foundation is caring for. And we liked that! We saw that the children didn’t have enough care, enough magic in their lives. And we decided to turn those celebrations into a regular activity…”

This is how we came up with the idea of taking drug users’ children to theatres and circuses, and to picnics in summer.

So Lena Remnyova who coordinates the project of social work with children got on her phone and computer and began calling Moscow’s entertainment centers…

“I made a list of those centers, there are about 40 of them, and I sent all of them letters explaining who we are, what we do and why we need tickets.”

The letter said, “Parents who use drugs often encounter various challenges, including the lack of money to meet their children’s needs, the lack of health to be good parents, as well as judgmental attitudes from other people. We are helping those parents deal with these challenges and build better relationships with their children. Our help includes organizing regular events for children or their families where the children can have fun, learn new things, receive gifts and communicate with their parents. All our events are free of charge to the children and their parents…”

“About 10 out of 40 centers responded, and we are grateful for their understanding. That’s enough for now. We have taken the children to two theaters and to the Oceanarium. By the way, negotiating with the administration of an entertainment center is not the most difficult thing. It is also necessary to negotiate with the families that have their unique situations. You have to call them not once but at least three times, and one week before the event you have to start calling them every night because some of them have their doubts, others have health issues and so on. Of course, then you have to meet them and bring them to the event for an organized visit. But then, these children are just like any other children…”

…Three mothers and seven children aged four to 15 came to the Planetarium. One of the mothers, Natasha, said that she was happy about the invitation because her son Max rarely attended school events.

“He goes to church often, however,” she said. “And also, for 600 rubles they learned how to make pizza…”

I can talk about school events forever, so she and I began reflecting on the fact that “the past was better than the present” and that when we were little, children used to be taken to theaters all the time…

The administration of the Planetarium provided very good tickets for a three-hour tour. And as there were few visitors at the time (it was a weekday), this became a VIP tour: the lecturer spent most of the time with our group. The mothers were happy to answer questions like “How many stars can you see on a summer night?” As it turns out, you can see three thousand stars…

“And on Monday we went to the Experimentanium,” says Lena. “It also went well but not all the children were able to get there, and the guides even suggested postponing the tour. But we decided to visit that day because of those who were able to make it. I think both times it went well. Each time, the children and their parents are less and less shy, talk more to each other and to us, and they talk about things important to them. I can see that the children are having fun but also that their parents are enjoying it, above all their communication with the children.”





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