The four-year-old Masha spends her childhood amongst cardboard boxes, garbage and plastic bags. Her mother suffers from AIDS - the disease driving many Russian families to misery. KNH supports affected children and families.
Four-year-old Masha's life is only suffering. Tears, beatings, shouting, hunger- her father's excessive drinking. But Masha's mother Anya* has nowhere to go. When her parents found out she has an HIV/AIDS infection, they threw her and baby Masha out onto the streets. Since then the two have been living with Masha's father and go through hell day by day. (*Names have been changed)
Many children in St. Petersburg grow up in miserable conditions. They live in run-down flats without heating or running water. A single room houses an entire family. Mostly, violence is part of the daily routine. "These children are not being supported at all, they do not attend kindergarten. Many of them do not even have enough to eat.", Julia says. The young woman is a social worker for KNH's partner organization ‘Innovations' in St. Petersburg. Every day she sees numerous, horrifying child fates. "The parents cannot escape the circle of unemployment and poverty, of drugs and HIV/AIDS by themselves. And their children are the ones suffering most. Many of them are malnourished and neglected, the major part suffers severe psychological damage."
HIV/ AIDS pushes children to the edge of society
"Children like Masha are being born into difficult family circumstances.", social worker Julia says. "Many mothers have AIDS. They are drug-addicted and can hardly care for themselves. They lack the necessary documents to apply for governmental support. Due to their disease, they are being ignored by the Russian authorities." In Russia, HIV/AIDS is a taboo that marginalizes children an adults.
KNH and its partner ‘Innovations' support about 60 families in St. Petersburg: Women and children living below the poverty line, being HIV/AIDS-infected and often having been drug-addicts for many years. They get support in a Family Care Centre. "We want them to lead a live without drugs and alcohol.", Lena Kuzmina, manager of ‘Innovations', says. "In return, we help them to be good parents, to feed their children and assist them in health care." Psychologists and an HIV/AIDS consultant are working in the Centre. "The consultant organizes workshops and discussions with doctors, and she helps the affected to find vacancies in rehabilitation centres."
Masha comes to life again
Masha and Anya have been coming to the Centre for a short while now. The little girl capers amongst toys and dolls. She is like a different person. Meanwhile, her mother speaks to a social worker about a new job and a place to stay. Lena Kuzmina: "We support the women in getting the necessary documents from the state and, if possible, enrol their children for kindergarten. For single mothers like Anya, finding work is much easier when their little ones are looked after." If their money does not last, the families are supplied with provisions, medication and clothes.
You can support the affected children and their families with your donation:
Support us in giving children like Masha a better childhood and a better future.
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Eastern Europe Desk