Igor Georgi

Program Director Saint-Petersburg SOS Children’s Villages in Russia

New ways to work, more lives to safe

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Currently SOS Children’s Villages Russia runs nine family strengthening projects in five country regions. This is an overall capacity saving about 1.000 children from losing their natural family environment. But it took quite a while to come that far.
I joined SOS Children’s Villages Russia in 2006 as first national family strengthening program advisor. At that time there was only one family strengthening project and my task was to nurture this one and start new ones in various country regions.

My first steps into family strengthening at SOS Children’s Villages Russia
To my surprise my first working day not took place in Russia but in Czech Republic at continental family strengthening meeting where I met many other colleagues involved in family strengthening (FS). The workshop was led by Ms. Nicola Oberzaucher. It was a very enlivening and useful meeting. There I got the very core idea of what SOS family strengthening projects should look like and aim for. I was eager to get as much information as possible and thus asked a lot of questions. At the end of the session Mr. Michael Pöltl, who was regional director then even qualified my questions to be “killer questions”.

Upon my return to Russia I attended the very first national management team meeting (NMT) in my SOS-life. This was quite an opposite experience from the meeting in Czech Republic! None of the NMT members except for the National Director was aware at all of what FS projects are about and why SOS Children’s Villages needed them. Many Children’s Village directors even regarded FS projects as threat to the core business of SOS Children’s Villages Russia and thus refused to cooperate or support me in developing new ways to work for our association. So, in the beginning it was quite challenging to have that little support on national level.

Successes despite considerable challenges
In addition the very concept of FS projects incorporated the idea to have small or almost no investments with really low running costs. Thus for some years my laptop was the most expensive tool in FS work in Russia. We had to use our own cars for travel and home visits, had no premises and even had no money to rent premises, thus we had to make agreements with our partners to provide us locations for offices and service provision for free. Nonetheless we succeeded to open seven new projects in four country regions in this manner within three year's time. Enlivened by this progress SOS Children’s Villages Russia was asked to make a strategic plan to start as many FS projects in as many country regions as possible. This was really a dream-moment: We drew a picture where almost the whole country was full of FS projects starting three to five new projects every year!
Then the so called “sustainable path” document came. SOS Children’s Villages Russia was among a number of countries to become self-financed. That was the sudden end of the dream about the expansion of family strengthening, but by far not the end for already existing FS projects. Russian colleagues could see the value of FS interventions over the years and began to understand that it was not a threat to the traditional SOS Children’s Village concept at all.

Solidarity within SOS Children’s Villages Russia enables greater support for more families
It is quite remarkable that when one family strengthening project lost its single source of funding in the middle of the year the national management team took the decision to sustain the project by the entire Children’s Villages each sharing a little bit of their budgets. Another FS project we even had to close down due to lack of finance, but we re-started it again this year as the NMT decided to allocate the money received from IKEA foundation to support especially family strengthening projects in Russia. Furthermore SOS Children’s Villages Russia bought premises for three FS projects in Saint Petersburg last year and thus made our dream come true: We now have our own premises whereas before we had to shift offices every year and a half!

Future dreams
I have left my position of national family strengthening program advisor two years ago, but still I am very proud of SOS Russia exploring new ways to save even more lives and families of children in need. In my position as SOS Children’s Village program director I have the strong believe that SOS must be flexible to address current needs of vulnerable children in local communities. I also believe that one day we will no longer label children as “SOS children” and “Non-SOS children” The life of every child is equally important and we should be equally proud of both: preserving the loss of parental care for children and creating a loving home for every child.

Igor Georgi

joined SOS Children's Villages in Russia in 2006. He is Program Director in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. 

When he joined SOS Children's Villages, he began as Family Strengthening advisor. Igor enjoys the privilege to be the one who shouldered the responsibility for starting Family Strengthening projects around the country. 
In a family of four plus a pet, Igor understands responsibility as an act of will: I am trying to be a caring husband and father! Spending greater part of leisure time with the family and sharing with the local Hindu community are for him, moments of conscious acquisition of caring capabilities. Home is exactly there where he is not quite often. Still, he finds solace where the family is and spiritual sharing sessions take place.