Ira and Vasilisa

Ira and Vasilisa

 Ira and Vasilisa

Employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ira learnt about “Big Brothers Big Sisters” in her company which has been supporting the programme for many years. Few times Ira took part in corporate volunteer events  and visited orphanages. These visits deeply impressed her and made her think of helping children on a regular basis. Commitment required by “Big Brothers Big Sisters” often scares off potential volunteers – the volunteer is expected to visit a child he or she is matched with every week for at least one year. But for Irina this commitment was an advantage – she felt it would allow her to make a real difference in the a child’s life and create an true bond with a Little who has no one else in his or her life. “If you get something good, you want to give something back too”, - tells Irina about her motivation to become a volunteer. Ira received great support from her friends, some of whom are adoptive parents.

Surely, Irina had some fears about entering  “Big Brothers Big Sisters”. She was scared she would not be able to handle a child; that she would be matched with a teenage boy who she wouldn’t know what to talk about. So in the very beginning Ira decided that she wants to be matched with a little girl. But something unexpected happened: promising that they would suit each other perfectly in terms of character and interests, case manager Alyona suggested that Ira becomes a Big for a 17-year old Vasilisa. Irina decided to trust professional’s opinion. Now, 4 months later, Ira says that the biggest surprise for her after joining the programme became Vasilisa herself  -  her lively and curious nature and the fact that they have so much fun together, despite age difference. But certainly, the first meeting made the two of them pretty nervous! Admitting to each other how agitated they both felt helped them to break the ice. Girls spoke for 1.5 hours about why they are interested in becoming a Big and a Little, about their hobbies and hopes for the future. Ira did not ask questions about Vasilisa’s past – the girl will share it herself, if she is ever ready.

In the beginning Ira was worried that Vasilisa is bored with their meetings: the girl was shy and reserved. Now she got used to Ira and opened up, becoming vivacious and communicative. It turned out that Vasilisa enjoyed their meetings from the very beginning, so Irina did not have to worry. “Vasilisa is a sweet child”, - reflects Irina – “She is cheerful and active, a daydreamer and rather unpractical, like many young people of her age”.

Ira is trying to plan their activities in advance, making sure they are essential to the girl’s development and growth. Vasilisa has just one year left to spend in the orphanage; she is going to start an independent life when she is 18. Ira is helping Vasilisa to become familiar with household issues, - they cook together and plan to go to Ikea to get an idea about how to furnish an apartment. Vasilisa is interested in everything about France and dreams to visit the country one day. Irina was keen on studying French for a long time, so she suggested they take French classes together; they also went together to French Embassy for an event. Another hobby of Vasilisa are animals. Irina brings her books on the subject and they already visited a zoo and a stable together.

Her love for animals determines Vasilisa’s career choice – she would like to be a veterinarian. Irina supports her in this aspiration and tries to help her get ready for her exams. But at one of their last meetings Vasilisa told Irina that her teachers at the orphanage are persuading her to switch to becoming an elementary school teacher – in their minds a much more suitable profession for the girl. Orphanages’ employees often think that children should get a “practical” profession, like  a cook or a seamstress. “Vasilisa is still a child, she does not know how to defend her opinion and her goals”, - says Irina. She is trying to motivate the girl to stay true to her dreams and she is planning to speak with the orphanage employees and ask them to support Vasilisa in her career choices. As a volunteer, Irina believes that her main aim is to teach Vasilisa to follow her dreams and goals and overcome fears that prevent them from being accomplished. For Irina, friendship itself is what matters the most in her relationships with Vasilisa. She hopes that no matter how their relationship changes with time, the attachment will remain for many years to come.

 

Anna Bernikova Administrator, Rehabilitation and Correctional Education Center, Federal Institute for Educational DevelopmentAnna Bernikova