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Added MAR 2009
The TOS in Sweden is just a little over ten years old and already it has an impressive record of service. Since its foundation in 1995, it has focused on helping orphans and street children in Latvia and working with another small Swedish organisation called Letthjälpen (Swedish for Helping Latvia) or Latvian Aid Association.
Today the TOS in Sweden is supporting three projects, as Birgitta Stålhammar, their National Coordinator (seen at right) , reports.
A Street Children’s Centre in the city of Riga
This centre is run by a woman called Diana Vasilane and her staff. The TOS has cooperated with Diana since 2003 and has seen at first-hand the wonderful work being done among children who are ‘social orphans’, with parents who are alcoholics, criminals and prostitutes etc. Expecting their parents always to be drunk and violent, these children don’t want to go home after school but spend their afternoons and evenings in the streets and parks of Riga. There, of course, they are easily contacted by older boys and girls using drugs and behaving anti-socially.
Diana’s centre is open from 4 pm to 9 pm and provides a safe place where these ‘at risk’ children can do their homework, play games or use a computer. They can have a good dinner there and even take some bread home for breakfast next morning. They can also get shoes or clothes if needed – things given away by people in Sweden.
As the Latvian authorities only pay a small part of the salaries for Diana’s staff, it is necessary for organisations like the TOS to regularly provide additional funding. The Swedish TOS has also donated furniture and household equipment to Diana’s centre and every year they give Christmas gifts.
Every day this centre is visited by 20 to 30 children and teenagers. The older ones, who have visited it for several years, are helping in the centre. They also seek out ‘new’ street children in town and persuade them to visit the centre.
Diana’s organisation owns an old school house with quite a lot of land around it, in the countryside 100 kms north of Riga. Diana is planning to make it a centre for rehabilitation of ‘at risk’ children and their parents. It is a big building but old, and needs renovation so the Swedish TOS is now trying very hard to find sponsors for the renovation.
Working with Kopa ar Mums
Since 1999 the TOS in Sweden has supported a Latvian organisation called Kopa ar Mums (Latvian for Together with Us) which works both in Riga and in the countryside. In Riga they are teaching a group of orphan teenagers, brought up in big institutions, how to live in society and in more family-like homes. These young people are learning to take care of their everyday life with cooking, washing etc. and are also attending some vocational training. All of them are getting psychological help.
During the past ten years the TOS has donated furniture, cooking utensils, kitchen equipment, clothes, shoes, computers, puzzles, games, Christmas gifts and money. They also successfully organised staff training for Kopa ar Mums several years ago.
Supporting an orphanage
The TOS in Sweden also supports the orphanage Oasis, founded by Kopa ar Mums some years ago in Lauderi, 40 kms east of Riga, close to the Russian border. It is a small scale orphanage with about 40 children and young people from three to eighteen years of age. The young children go to school in the village nearby, while the older ones are trained in house keeping, gardening and small scale manufacturing. Every child in the Lauderi orphanage is getting psychological help and the older teenagers are living in small flats, gaining experience for their everyday lives as adults.
Like the Kopa ar Mums projects in Riga, the orphanage in Lauderi has received furniture, kitchen equipment and utensils, clothes, shoes, Christmas gifts and money for renovation from the Swedish TOS.
If you would like to find out more, Birgitta can be contacted via Sweden’s page on the International TOS website.
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