Sergey Kivenko: «We Help Those Other Children, Too» — Yablonka Center Kaliningrad

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Dimitrie Ross, our good friend and Yablonka volunteer, has met with Sergey Kivenko, Yablonka Center director, to ask the simple question — and how is Yablonka doing? 

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Dimitrie Ross: Sergey, how is Yablonka doing?

Sergey Kivenko: Some people envy us, others sympathize with us. I believe that Yablonka is really somewhat inbetween of those two extremes.


Dimitrie Ross: How many street children are in Kaliningrad, does anyone know?

Sergey Kivenko: I am the last street child [laughing]. Sometimes I walk through the streets of Kaliningrad and think why they don’t want to help us in any way?.. Well, when I see the eyes of children I can tell that the spring and the sun do wonders in lives of these boys and girls. Kids start to play, laugh, have fun more and more, the sunnier it gets the better for kids. In all senses. Kids live, learn, try to survive.

Dimitrie Ross: Are you planning to run the traditional for Yablonka Summer Camp this year?

Sergey Kivenko: Of course! The July is the most stressful month. Schools have their summer camps in June, but as for July and August — it’s the time when summer programs and camps like ours are needed the most.  You have to occupy children with something, especially those other children who can’t travel or do stuff with their parents during the summer time, or those other children whose parents have no money for a vacation. For these children we will have our traditional Yablonka summer camp with games, entertainment and meals.

We are very glad that this year our friends and sponsors help us and it’s possible to run a summer camp.

Dimitrie Ross: You are financed by the government?

Sergey Kivenko: No, of course not! The government is going through a pretty difficult times right now. Many social programs are going through some changes. You understand, the situation is not easy. Of course, it’s not hopeless, and we are ready to help.

When we help children who extremely need help this is the way we help our country. This is our kind of patriotism.


Dimitrie Ross: When I am asked what is Yablonka I usully explain it this way: It’s a place for children in between times. They were taken away from their parents and are still not placed in a orphanage. These children are sent to Yablinka. Is it so or not anymore? 

Sergey Kivenko: Well, the situation is a bit different now. Yes, there was a time when Yablonka was exactly the way you described it just now. It was a difficult time for all of us. Today, our country’s policy is to keep children in families by consanguitity.

We fully support this policy of the federal government. Our regional administration also does everything possible to keep children in their families.

During the last half of the year it’s our strategy and our goal. By the way, there are less children today who have no parental care. The orphanages are slowly reduce the placement spaces, meaning beds.

During the child’s visit to Yablonka his or her parents can use this time for a job search. Well, we always support the parents when they need help from the social perspective.

Certainly, there are also situations when a child just can’t stay at home. The public authorities respond immediately in such cases. Even if you cound such cases there is still a tendecy to keep a child in a family. In most cases father and mother provide a better care for a child. It’s a difficult task, of course.

Dimitrie Ross: Yablonka is a center for social rehabilitation. How do you explain people what is social rehabilitation?

Sergey Kivenko: The social rehabilitation is a recovery of social skills which were lost or in some cases not even learned. It’s the ability to overcome dificulties in communicating with peers, parents, dificulties to deal with the informational aggression, or dificulties of understanding that your place in life is not well adjusted.

In moments like this we have to be with this child. We have to be ready to help him or her to make their own right decisions in life. This child should know that there is a place where he or she will be helped and he or she does not owe anything for that help.

Dimitrie Ross: What’s the hardest thing in working with children who come to Yablonka?

Sergey Kivenko: The hard things begin when a kid goes home after spending a couple of hours in Yablonka with psychologists, peers and volunteers. By the way, there are more and more young people coming to Yablonka who would like to be volunteers. So, this kid has spent some time in Yablonka, then he or she goes home and his or her paretns hear «in Yablonka this and that is better than here». Parents believe that we teach this kid how to criticize paretns, but we don’t! Or this kid come back to Yablonka and we have to start all over again to restore this child’s emotional balance.

Dimitrie Ross: Wouldn’t it be logical to work with paretns, too?

Sergey Kivenkoе: That’s exactly what we do. Once a week we have special sessions for paretns with a psychologist. This sessions are free and some parents come to it on a regular basis. Others don’t come at all because that think that if they come to a meeting with a psychologist then… people will think that they are crazy. Yes, many still think that psychologists are psychiatrists.

Perhaps our siciety is not ready to see a friend, helper, social confessor or a good neighbor in a psychologist.

I believe it will change eventually. But yes, we are always glad to see parents coming to Yablonka, too!

Dimitrie Ross: What makes you happy when you think of Yablonka?

Sergey Kivenko:  Good is that we do this work! It’s a miracle! Good is that young people — students and former Yablonka kids — come to Yablonka to volunteer, to help. Good is that the category of children in Yablonka has changed. Good that we are now able to help children with special needs.

Dimitrie Ross: What would you say to those who know about Yablonka and to those who never heard of it?

Sergey Kivenko: Тo those who know about us I would like to say Come visit us! You know that Yablonka is not just a place to visit, it’s your home! Stay with us, play with kids.

To those who don’t know about Yablonka I want to say that Yablonka will help you to find out about your own skills and talents that you were not even aware of. Come visit us!