Olena Kripak

Family Strengthening Coordinator in Kyiv and Kyiv region SOS Children’s Village in Ukraine

There are no other children…

I have been working in SOS Children’s Villages for ten years, experienced many touching stories and got to know many people. However, some stories are special for me. Let me tell you one of them.

Difficult circumstances for a young family
It happened about four years ago. I had been working at the office, when I heard loud voices. I got interested and went out. I saw a young woman who was crying. Our co-worker told me about her problem: her children (a boy and a girl) had been taken to the hospital. Their mother Oksana1 was a single mother. Her husband had left her when the daughter was two years old. Soon Oksana met Alexander, who was seven years older than herself. Alexander was a successful man. He had an apartment in Kiev which he rented and he had some money. He had his own car. He worked as a builder. Soon a son – Maxim – was born into this family. His father was very happy, because he did not have any children from his first wife. When the son was born, the man lost his job and did not hurry to look for another one. Oksana took care of her children. When Max was eight months old, the father went away. There were attempts to start everything again, but nothing happened.

Oksana’s father helped her family, giving them money for living. Unfortunately he died soon afterwards and Oksana had to manage all the expenses herself, because Oksana's mother was suffering from a severe psychological illness - schizophrenia. Sometimes there were remissions and she was normal. When the father was still alive her mother was in a state of remission for 11 years. After the husband’s death her mental health became unstable. She experienced a crisis every six months and had to be treated in hospital. During these periods, Oksana visited her mother at the hospital weekly, bringing clean clothes, bedding and food. Soon the family had big debts for electricity and heating. All the time the young woman was looking for ways to earn money, while the children were at home without an adult. As a result of all this, the representatives of the local youth welfare institution took the children to the hospital, as this was the only place for children whose custody was in question.

When SOS Children’s Villages came in
We started working with the family right away. Due to the low level of parental potential and the absence of suitable living conditions for her children, Oksana was invited to participate in the course Strong Parents - Strong Children. There the mother was able to learn how to create trusting relationships with her children, how to communicate properly and effectively and how to create an emotional connection with them by looking at the world through the children’s eyes and how to achieve closer relationships with each other in the family.
In the process of a comprehensive assessment, we found that Oksana was very nervous, was unable to find solutions to complex issues and was in a difficult psycho-emotional state. As a result she began work with a psychologist. Oksana increased her self-esteem significantly: she began to take responsibility for her life, her psychological state improved and she became more balanced.

Oksana also actively attended a women's club where she was able to understand that she was not alone in having difficult life circumstances. There she could share her thoughts and learn to interact with the world in a new way.

In working with her younger son, a lot of time was spent on solving the issues of Maxim’s speech disorders. The boy did not speak appropriately for his age and uttered only unintelligible sounds - his "own" language - which was impossible to understand. The project speech therapist suspected that the child did not hear at all and sent him to the audiologist, where it was found that the boy had a 2 (3) degree of deafness. The boy needed special care. He needed a hearing aid, for which the family had no money.

As the elder child Marina spent a lot of time taking care of her younger brother, she was not able to communicate with her peers and had no free time for children's matters. We made sure she got involved in art therapy classes, where the girl was able to express her views and feelings, solve existing conflicts and problems, develop her thoughts and feelings of harmony, and develop creative abilities which helped her to establish social contacts. The girl learned to care for herself, her body and her personal hygiene. 

Life really changes for the better
Working with the family brought positive results. Oksana began to give more free time to the children, spent a family holiday, became more balanced and learned to restrain negative emotions. She went through a series of individual psychological counselling sessions, and the course on improving parenting potential and the women's club helped her to develop herself. Previously she worked as a cleaner, but now she is an administrator in a beauty salon. The daughter continues to attend art therapy classes.

Our workers found a sponsor who paid the debt for the utilities used. Heating and electricity in the house were restored and sanitary and hygienic conditions for the family were improved. During the whole period of being in our care, the family received food, medicine, a school backpack and other necessary items. However, the main help – now Maxim can hear and speak! I believe he will have a good future.

I am a happy person, because I have the opportunity to support people. In addition, thank God SOS came into my life. Since then helping others has become my main priority. When I manage to improve someone’s life, I feel happier. Nevertheless, I get the most pleasure from empowering families and preventing social orphanhood.
I am glad and thankful to my SOS Ukraine co-workers. My team motivates me a lot. It is a “dream team”: I work with the right people and together we are the best child protection organisation in Ukraine.

1 Original name has been changed to maintain confidentiality

Olena Kripak

is Family Strengthening Coordinator at SOS Children’s Villages Programme in Kyiv & Kyiv region, Ukraine.

SOS came into Olena’s life ten years ago and helping others has become her priority. Empowering families and preventing social orphanhood is her objective. She is convinced that together with her strong team, she can contribute a lot to improving child protection in Ukraine.

Her family is her fortress. She is married with one son. She plans to adopt two children, as she thinks that every child should have a family and a happy childhood. In her free time Olena loves travelling. Travelling satisfies all the demands of a good hobby – it is education and refreshment to the mind, body and soul.

For her, Ukraine is still the best place in the world. Ukraine stretches from the mountains in the west to the steppes in the east, and from the marches in the north to the seas in the south. Ukraine has picturesque scenery and a temperate continental climate. It has cold winters with snow and warm summers. But the greatest value in Ukraine is its generous and hospitable people and rich history.