An Inspiring Story Proving that One Person Can Make a Difference

olga proto inspiring story making a difference I was put in touch with Olga Proto recently, through a lovely friend, and was deeply touched by her inspiring story.

Olga has been collecting donations locally for clothes and food, and sending them to Ukraine’s ‘forgotten children’. Many of them were left homeless and orphaned two years ago, and are forced to live in squalor.   

Here is Olga’s inspiring story in her own words. It just goes to show that one person really can make a difference.

Tell us a bit more about what you are doing Olga?

Two years ago when Russia occupied Ukraine I saw photos of the children who were left homeless or having to live in squalid conditions because they are in no mans land. The only help they get for survival is through donations, and I felt I could not be passive. I had to try and do something to bring a little comfort, so I contacted the Sisters of St. Joseph in Lviv to see if I could help. They do a lot of voluntary work with the orphanages and schools in the war zone, driving over 14,000 miles to deliver much needed food and clothes to the people left in the war zone at much risk to themselves.

Was there a particular catalyst for your journey?

olga-start-of-journeyThis photo was the one that started me on my journey – no one should have to live like this. I put out an appeal to a local mums Facebook group, and was astounded by the response I got for clothes and food. I was quickly able to send my first shipment via the professional drivers who come from Ukraine every two weeks.

What do you typically send?

Clothing, shoes, food and medicine. I pack and sort the clothes into bags for the two types of orphanages which are babies (0-3) and bigger children who are 3-18 years old. The drivers charge per kilo and to date this year I have personally paid over £4,000 in transportation, which means that local parents have donated a staggering four thousand kilos of clothing, shoes, food and medicine.

The best food to donate ideally is dried fruits, instant hot chocolate drinks, dried milk, baby milks and plastic bags of porridge. Anything and everything that sustains for winter!

This year the nuns wanted to take forty children from the war zone to the West of Ukraine into the Carpathian mountains, for two weeks of psychological art therapy to try and take away the trauma of what they had seen in the war. They needed lots of a paints and paper etc, so I bought £200 of art supplies from Poundland to help them. The nuns reported back that it was a highly successful exercise.

What’s next on the agenda?

I have now received a huge amount of donations which I am busy trying to sort and pack, but the winter has already started on the Eastern front up to minus forty degrees. Due to the bombings there is hardly any electricity or heating in the villages, and I’d like to be able to send hot water bottles, children and adult vitamins, cough medicines and vicks. This is the last lorry I will be sending before Christmas, and this time I really do need financial help to send it all, and to be able to buy the medicines and hot water bottles. I would also love to send them chocolates and biscuits for Xmas, but it is a luxury I cannot afford at the moment.

Every single donation will make a difference to the lives of these children.

Thank you so much for sharing your story Olga. Please take a look at Olga’s Just Giving page.

Solidarity with Refugees march to Parliament Square this Saturday #WeStandWithYou

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The Children’s Society is proud to be taking part in the Solidarity with Refugees march to Parliament Square on Saturday 17 September 2016.

The children’s charity are calling on the Government to do more so that young refugees and migrants get the help they desperately need to rebuild their lives when they reach the UK. They need help from social workers, mental health services, housing and independent legal guardians to help them navigate complex immigration and legal systems.

For children fleeing war, violence and persecution – often on their own – reaching the UK should mean reaching safety. Unfortunately the reality is that too often they do not get the long-term support they need to rebuild their lives.  

The Children’s Society know from their specialist advocacy, orientation and support services helping young refugees and migrants across the country that the reality is often cruel. Many young refugees and migrants in the UK are faced with destitution, homelessness and, as they approach their 18th birthday, the threat of being forced to return to a country where they may be in danger.

For over seventy years, The Children’s Society has been supporting young refugees and migrants in their specialist local services throughout the country, including all major cities. They are working hard to break down the legal and practical barriers that stop them from rebuilding their lives in the UK.

By coming together with supporters around the country for this important march and demonstration, The Children’s Society are determined to show young refugees and migrants in the UK that we are on their side.

What to expect

12.30- 13.30 Assemble and meet other supporters: The Children’s Society will have a designated and clearly marked space on the Southbound Carriageway of Park Lane where supporters can gather. There will be an opportunity to meet staff, volunteers and fellow supporters and hear more about our work with young refugees and migrants.
13.30- 15.00 March: We will march following the planned route.
15.00- 17.00 Demonstration: A rally at Parliament Square after the march.

For more details, or to make a donation to The Children’s Society, please visit their website

On Being One of ‘Those Mums’

I’m in danger of turning into one of ‘those mums’. Actually, who am I kidding? I already am one. I make comments that other people don’t even think, let alone say out loud. I openly talk about my failings as a parent, and fears for the future. I’m not afraid to make bold decisions if it will enhance my family’s lives. Ultimately all I want is for my children to grow up happy.  

I think it’s largely because of the way I grew up. Dysfunctionally without a doubt, but lets not beat around the bush here, I was also abused in all directions. Sexually. Emotionally. Physically. The damage my childhood had on my mental health as a young adult was monumental. I partied hard, and drank far too much. I got myself into a lot of trouble, and very almost crossed the line to the point of no return.

CSE007_Facebook3Turning it all around

I made a conscious decision one day to turn my life around, and with the enduring support of my then boyfriend (now husband) and great friends, I was able to break the cycle of negativity. I had the strength to disassociate myself from toxic influences, and stop myself from repeating behaviour that had previously caused me so many problems. I even went on to write a book about my experiences, which remains one of my greatest achievements to date.

I have often wondered how different life would have been had I not met the incredible people I did on my journey. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m pretty sure it would have had disastrous consequences. This is what life is like for plenty of young people across the country.

Children who’ve emerged into adulthood full of demons from the things they’ve seen and had to do just to survive. Not a friend in sight to help them on their way. Thankfully charities like The Children’s Society exist to help these people rebuild their lives.

The Children’s Society need your help!

In less than one week (13 June), MPs will debate the protections available to 16 and 17 year olds being sexually exploited like Eva, Chloe and Jemma. Please take action to support the high-profile Seriously Awkward campaign, which has reached approximately 75m people in the media with over 400 items of news coverage and influence this crucial debate for young people being down by the law.

Please tweet your MP (right now) by clicking on the box above or using this simple form, and ask them to be there to back the changes needed.

The first time the bill was debated in Parliament earlier in the year, a record number of campaigners asked their MP to be there. Despite being only a few lines in this enormous bill, it became the most talked about the campaign at the debate.

You may not think so, but one tweet can have an impact, and will make a huge difference at this vital stage of the campaign

Thanks in advance for your support! Should you wish to learn more about the work The Children’s Society do, please head over to their website. I also found the video below really useful, do check it out if you have a couple of minutes to spare.

 

We Need to Protect Our Teenagers from Exploitation

We Need to Protect Our Teenagers from ExploitationTo say that I grew up chaotically would be an understatement, dysfunctional is a better way of describing my childhood.

I was abused by my babysitter when I was 8 years old. We moved house lots, which meant always being the ‘new girl’ at school, which made me vulnerable to bullies. My step-father’s on/off presence created much confusion. As did the lies, such as being told that he was my biological father only to later discover that he wasn’t. The list could go on.

A tough start in life

When I was 15 I attempted suicide. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t want to actually kill myself, but I desperately needed someone, anyone, to listen to my cry for help. A week or so later, as I was getting ready to go back to school, I had an argument with my step-father and he punched me in the face. It was something new, for as mean as he could be with his words, he never usually hit me. With the blood still drying on my white shirt I remember thinking that he’d handed me an opportunity to get the hell out of dodge. I gave my mother an ultimatum no parent wants to hear from their teenage child.

“Drive me to London and still have a daughter, or I’ll go anyway.”

It’s ironic really that I haven’t spoken to her for longer than a decade, but that’s a whole other story. On that day, she dutifully drove me to her sister’s tiny two bed flat, which was where my adulthood started. Sleeping on the floor between my three cousins’ cot and bunk beds. Not being legally able to work, I did cash in hand jobs, where men three times my age would get me drunk and try to have sex with me in grimy pub toilets.

The next ten years that followed were lived with my finger firmly attached to the self-destruct button. I drank too much, partied too hard, and bumped uglies with people that I am ashamed to admit to. I suffered countless bouts of depression, and had two full on mental breakdowns. I was taken advantage of many times and in many ways, and that was WITH a roof over my head. What would have happened to me had I not had floors to sleep on?

What happens to the thousands of children who don’t have any options, and fall through the cracks?

As the law currently stands, police are unable to step in and protect older teenagers from sexual exploitation in the same way that they can protect children under 16. By making a few amendments to the Bill, the Government can change this. On 13 April The Children’s Society are holding an event in Parliament where child sexual exploitation project workers and young people from their Seriously Awkward team can speak directly to MPs about why 16 and 17 year olds are at particular risk of exploitation.

Please help The Children’s Society by asking your local MP to attend this crucial event. Simply complete this form, which should take less than 30 seconds, so that your MP can speak to the experts. The Children’s Society want 16 and 17 year olds who are being sexually exploited to be protected from harm, get the help they need, and the justice they deserve. Please ask your MP to stand up for these vulnerable children.

For more information about the Seriously Awkward campaign, please visit The Children’s Society

Time to Put the Pressure on Your MP

The Children’s Society need your help! They are asking us all to urge our local MP to stand up for 16 and 17 year olds in Parliament. I’ve already contacted mine, will you contact yours? 

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The Government have introduced the Policing and Crime bill to Parliament. This Bill provides a crucial opportunity for them to make important changes to how 16 and 17 year olds are supported and protected.
 
Please let your MP know about our key asks and request they attend the Second Reading debate. Their attendance will help to highlight the issues faced by this group of highly vulnerable young people and show Government what a vitally important issue it is. 
 
Please fill in your details here and ask your MP to speak up for exploited 16 and 17 year olds. It took me 28 seconds to complete the form, surely you can spare less than half a minute for this worthy cause?  
 
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