Her Majesty, Queen Silvia of Sweden, visits the young mothers program (September 2004).


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As a direct result of perestroika and institutionalized neglect of the social and healthcare sectors, Russia is facing an unprecedented population crisis. A generation of low birth rates have combined with a shorter average life span to create an accelerating population decline. In his inaugural address President Vladimir Putin cited a recent government study demonstrating that the population will fall by another 2.8 million by 2005, and warned that the Russian nation's very survival is in jeopardy.

Babushkas make pancakes
for the children at the young mother's center.

Conversely, the number of children born to unwed mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, has continued to grow more rapidly than any other maternal age group --from 55,695 in 1990 to 66,859 in 2000--a percentage leap from 10 percent to 22 percent. According to The World Bank 2000 report, Feminization of Poverty in Russia , these under-aged, single mothers, together with single elderly women, are now the highest risk population groups for "stagnant and exceptional poverty - the poorest among the poor."

Responding to Russia 's deepening social crisis, President Putin facilitated Russia 's first Civic Forum in Moscow in November, 2001. Representatives of non-governmental and human rights organizations from all regions of Russia were called to the Kremlin to deliver first hand, grassroots analyses. At the close of the Forum, the president identified Russia 's children as a "national catastrophe and social priority #1."

Simultaneously, he sharply criticized the vast Russian governmental bureaucracy for doing nothing to alleviate the suffering of children and their families and cited the increased need for the government to support its long-suffering pensioners.
Baby's first pancake (blini).

The failure of the state and inability of Russian NGO's to cope with their social crisis and the government's new willingness to work with successful Western NGO 's has created a rare opportunity for profound institutional change.

MiraMed, under sponsorship of the World Childhood Foundation, has worked in partnership with the Russian NGO “Women and Children First” to initiate an innovative program of direct assistance to teenaged mothers including motherhood education, pregnancy prevention education, counseling, social work, mentoring, NGO training and community partnerships utilizing new and existing community resources. The main program components are:

Direct assistance to young single mothers in Moscow
Our first Motherhood School “Zhuravushka”, was established in the Tsaritsyno Community Center in 2002. We opened our second school in the Community Center in Nagatino-Sadovniki in 2003 and the third in Yuzhnoe Butovo in 2005. Today, our program supports 150 single mothers, 157 children, 25 teenaged fathers, 10 grannies and 5 volunteers.

The Schools offer services 5 days a week which consist of the following elements:

  • Psychological basics of child-raising
  • Developing classes for children
  • Physical exercises for mothers and children
  • Individual and group counseling by psychologists, pedagogues, social workers, lawyers
  • Job orientation and vocational courses.
Babies first interview on Russian TV.
Our senior mentoring “Babushka Brigade” is comprised of senior citizen granny/volunteers who come to help take care of babies while their mothers are in class, share gained life experience with young mothers, as well as participate in organizing holiday events.

We have also established a “Materinsky Club” (mother's club) for solving any on-going issues of young mothers in group sessions.

Our program also includes providing various types of humanitarian support to mothers and their children:
  • Financial (from the program)
  • Clothing (by State , Charities and mothers themselves)
  • Food (by State and NGOs)
Disabled children participate in winter holiday celebrations.
Education on prevention of early sexual relations, abortions and teenage pregnancy
Although our program focuses on direct health/educational/psychological and financial assistance to young single mothers, we realized that beside this direct assistance we had to start preventive education for this at-risk group – teenagers.

Accordingly, we launched a “Responsible Motherhood” educational pilot program for 60 teenage female students at a nearby College for Fashion for the purpose of teaching prevention of early sexual relations, abortions and teenage pregnancy.

The classes are conducted for 4 groups of students (15 people in each) once a week for 4 hours and consist of such elements as disputes, discussions, trainings, videos on such themes as:
  • I am a future woman, wife, mother
  • Learning about yourself you learn about the world
  • All of us were children
  • Happy parents – happy children
  • Secrets of Child's play
  • Healthy woman – healthy children
Continuing the success---program components for the future
Throughout this project we have been guided by feedback from program participants and authorities. The demand for our current program is ever increasing as we become more successful and recognized. Too, the population of single mothers, mothers with invalid children, single mothers – orphanage graduates, etc. continues to grow.

"Prevention of Pregnancy Among High Risk Institutionalized Teens"

  • Classes for pregnant teenagers at Social Adaptation Centers in Moscow , St. Petersburg , Smolensk and Uglich on maternal and child health, post-natal care and all aspects of pregnancy and birth.
  • Individual and group counseling by Social Adaptation Center psychologists
  • Social work and case management at each site.

"Education, Counseling and Social Work for Pregnant Orphan Teenagers and New Mothers"

  • The "Babushka Brigade" community mentoring program at the Tsaritsyn Community Center in Moscow recruiting pensioners as mentors -- sharing a hot meal, child-raising wisdom and grandmotherly advice in a family-like setting daily.

"Mentoring for New Teenage Single Mothers"

  • A daily young mother's support group held at the Tsaritsyn Community Center in Moscow
  • MiraMed Partnership with Russian NGO's which agree to provide supportive program services such as legal assistance, a clothing bank, additional psychological and medical services.
  • Program sites Moscow (population 11 million), St. Petersburg (population 5 million) and Nizni Novgorod (population 3 million) and Uglich (population 35,000).