State Children’s Home No 4 in Pavlovsk lies 35 km from the centre of St. Petersburg and houses children and teenagers from the ages of four to eighteen. Over 600 children live here and are split into four houses by “ability”. The most severely disabled children live in Building No 4, about 150 children in all. This is where we work. The children live in a room, with up to 15 beds or cots in each, staffed by an untrained carer (sanitarka) who works a 24-hour shift. The sanitarkas are responsible for washing, cleaning, feeding and changing the children. There is little time left over for playing with, or giving individual attention to, any of the children.
The aim of the Charity has been to improve on the basic minimum, already provided by the State social system, by itself supplying additional helpers, material support, therapeutic and care materials and equipment, designed for use by the disabled. We have added substantially to the amount of physiotherapy provided by the State and recently have started a “Riding for the Disabled” group for those children who can benefit from it.
The most important suppose comes from the financing of extra carers and helpers. The first four volunteers came to Pavlovsk in 1996; since that time, every working week of every year, volunteers have cared for, fed and played with the children. At first there were only German volunteers but now Russians are involved and in 2001, we had our first English volunteer. Initially there were only enough resources to work in the so-called “lying groups” where the most disabled children were housed but now the project has expanded to all eleven groups. Formerly, children in the “lying groups” stayed in bed six out of seven days and were only taken out once a week to be bathed. They received no education or therapy. These additional “hands” are vital to the children’s development.
Since 1999, thanks to the long-term financial support of Kindernothilfe e.V. ( Germany), our work has developed considerably: we now have a Little School for twelve children, who were previously classed as uneducable; a Kindergarten which 5-10 children attend each day (open 5 days a week, morning and afternoon) and a group called Adeptacia. This group is for children who have only just arrived in Pavlovsk. Statistics showed that a large percentage of children who died, did so in the first six months of their being in Pavlovsk. Adapting to their new regime was too much for many of them. Adaptecia has a higher ratio of staff to children and its members are taught and supported as they get used to their new environment. Since the opening of this group, the death rate amongst the new children has fallen steeply.