October 21, 2007, 11:05
Statistics suggests there are around one million homeless children in Russia, although the real scale of the problem can hardly be assessed. Some experts believe the actual number could be four times as high.
Although the problem of homeless children has improved in recent years, local authorities are still under-resourced and ineffective.
British couple Hamish and Hannah-Louise are volunteers from abroad. They run the Love’s Bridge charity which reaches out to the city of Perm’s most vulnerable children, in European Russia’s north east.
|Hannah-Louise and Hamish, volunteers|
They come to the place where teenagers hang out once a week to entice them to their day shelter.
“Their initial reaction is mistrust: maybe we’ve got an ulterior motive, maybe we’re with the police, maybe we just want to take advantage of them. But we try and build up trust with them as best as we can, just invite them to come along with no strings attached,” says Hamish.
At the Love’s Bridge shelter, the teenagers receive food, advice, counselling and basic medical attention.
“The most valuable thing is that they maintain contacts with the real world. The older kids come to us once a week, it’s the only opportunity that we have to hang onto them and encourage them to make some changes in their life,” said Hannah-Louise.
The Love’s Bridge volunteers have helped hundreds of street children to overcome their addictions, return to their families or go back to school.