From Falling Apart to Family Strengthening – December 7 2018 From Falling Apart to Family Strengthening Family strengthening and economic empowerment for young couple in Ukraine The struggles of everyday life brought a young family in Kiev, Ukraine, to the verge of breakdown. Family strengthening support has helped the family recover and revive their dream of a happy home for their children. Violeta married her husband Mihail when both were in their early twenties. They soon had their son Artyom, now 10. Young and in love, they dreamed of having a big happy family and a good life. “Neither of us really had a good childhood,” says Violeta. She grew up in a dysfunctional family, while Mihail had a hard time growing up due to eyesight problems caused by the effects of the Chernobyl disaster. When they found each other, they were confident they could overcome any obstacles. As years went by, the young parents struggled to make ends meet. Things became slightly better when Mihail got a part-time job as a masseur. Then they had their daughter Mylana, now four, and, a year later, their second daughter, Zoryana. The increased financial needs and the stress of raising three children started to take its toll. A strained relationship When Violeta and Mihail would talk to each other, it was usually fighting. They fought over everything: money, parenting, over their living circumstances. Artyom could not bear his parents’ constant arguing. He began to withdraw and started refusing to go to school. Physically exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed, Violeta decided to seek help. In February 2016, she learned of the SOS family strengthening program in Kiev. There she met Olena Kalinichenko, a social worker who recognized that the young mother was on the verge of a breakdown. “Psychological counseling for Violeta was the most important step at that point,” Olena explains. To help the family meet the most basic material needs, SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine also supplied diapers for the girls, hygiene packs and food for the entire family, and school stationary for Artyom. The quick reaction had an immediate positive effect on Violeta. For the first time in years, she talked to her husband without fighting. The young parents made the decision to get help as a family and revive their dream of having a happy family. Workshops for family strengthening The parents enrolled in every SOS workshop they could. Mihail attended the parenting skills classes and family art therapy. Violeta also enrolled in a financial literacy course, women’s health lectures and workshops for playing with children. While their parents were in their classes, the girls attended early childhood development groups and Artyom took English and computer literacy classes as well as group psychological sessions with his peers. When it became evident that the girls had problems speaking, both received speech therapy. For Mihail having access to these offers free of charge is great help. “As a father I am grateful that my children got psychological counseling, speech therapy and early childhood development care. These services exist mainly in the private sector which we can’t afford.” Violeta adds that the parenting skills classes help them raise their children. “We learned how to communicate with our children, how to understand their needs and how to respond to them,” she says. The activities also had a positive effect on Artyom. “It helped him to come out of his shell and make friends,” Violeta says. He changed his attitude towards school, improved his grades and started sharing with his parents. He became proud of his achievements and of his family. Economic empowerment for the family Meanwhile, Violeta took charge of the family budget and economised their spending. Last year, she managed to find a home-based part-time job as a website administrator and copywriter. The additional income has allowed the family to make some home improvements. Mihail is a sought-after masseur, but cannot work full time because he cannot take public transport alone. With a smile, Violeta says in time this will change too. For now, they are happy in their one room in the flat they share with Mihail’s relatives. “We love being together and we enjoy spending time with our children,” Violeta says. “This is all thanks to the help from SOS Children's Villages. We feel respected and can turn to them any time we need help. SOS Children's Villages needs to keep doing what they’re doing for families like ours.” Photo: Katerina Ilievska Learn more: Learn more about our work in Ukraine What is SOS family strengthening?