Give Skills to Children Instead of Gifts

Every year, thousands of teenagers in Russia leave orphanages to start their own grown-up lives in the real world, with no experience of living outside of an institution.

Even at the age of 18 or 20, these teenagers have no decision making skills. They don't know how to do things that we, people with families, take for granted. They have no idea where to go if they get sick, how to write a resume, cook a meal or replace a light bulb. And it's not because they didn't want to learn these things. Often institutions simply don't give them many opportunities to do so. In some cases, it's completely impossible.

"Those are ordinary children living in foster care institutions," says Varvara Penzova, director of the Deti Nashi ("Our Children") charity foundation. "They haven't done anything to deserve being sent there. They often become the way they are not because of genetic disorders or inherent character features, but because of the conditions they've been living in," she explains.

For nine years, the Deti Nashi foundation has been helping young orphans prepare for their grown-up life outside of care homes. In the homes that the foundation works with, workshops have been created to help children obtain useful skills — cooking, sewing, doing carpenter work. It helps them adapt more efficiently, find their way and choose a future profession. It widens their perspective and makes them believe in themselves. Currently the foundation supports more than 20 different workshops in two orphanages in the Smolensk region (the Safonovo and Shatalovo orphanages). There are workshops on drama, joinery, sewing, gardening, painting and computer. Eighty-nine students attend at least one workshop, 35 attend two or more.


The gardening workshop in the Safonovsky school-home has been operating since 2011 and currently accommodates seven students. Children attending it become more caring, friendly and attentive. Those who have been attending the workshop for several years help the newcomers work with plants and give them advice. This collective work helps develop friendships and teaches patience. The children get important gardening skills and find out what role plants play in human life by sustaining the environment, raising our spirits, improving the microclimate around them and in some cases even curing diseases.

In November 2015, Deti Nashi launched the "Give Skills to Children Instead of Gifts" project. Its main goal is to make society realize that the loads of toys and other presents people bring to orphanages on the New Year's eve are actually harmful.

Orphans have a lot of problems that these presents will never solve. They are deprived of attention from grownups and lack privacy, they usually have no choices even in unimportant issues. They don't know how to maintain a household, plan their expenses, care for themselves — and they have no idea how hard people work for the money they buy these presents with.

"It's important to give the orphans a chance to have responsibilities, to give them choices – and help them understand the consequences of the choices they make. It's equally important to be firm and consistent with them," says Penzova.

When they get toys, music players and other things they ask for, children in orphanages get used to thinking that people owe them things, and this model of behavior becomes natural for them. When an orphan with this mindset leaves the institution and goes out in the world, it becomes a big problem for both him and society.

That's why the Deti Nashi foundation urges you to help children by supporting workshops in institutions instead of bringing them presents.

According to a recent foundation study, 73 percent of the orphans who take part in Deti Nashi's projects are much more successful in their grown-up lives than those who didn't participate in the projects – and only 20 percent of children in that group adapted successfully.


Muscles and seriousness are not the only things one needs to become a real man. Knowing how to make useful and beautiful things with your bare hands is appreciated too. In the Safonovsky school-home that's common knowledge – a carpenter's workshop has been operating there for nine years, helping boys learn to make things themselves. Under the supervision of a professional carpenter, boys learn to make model airplanes, ships and weapons, as well as repair things like wooden boxes, shelves, chairs and mops.

Support the "Give Skills to Children Instead of Gifts" project – send a text message saying "Deti 500" to the number 3116. Five hundred rubles equals one class in an orphanage workshop for ten kids!

All the funds raised will go to support workshops in the Safonovsky school-home and the Shatalovsky orphanage.

Give Skills to Children Instead of Gifts!

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