Visiting the Tula Granny Program

Linda Wright, director of development, comments on the visit she made at the end of March to an orphanage in Tula, Russia, where Spence-Chapin has sponsored a Granny Program to help those children most at risk, through daily, individual attention from women in the community.

For many years, I've listened to our social workers describe their experiences in orphanages and looked at thousands of pictures of the children living in them.  Last month I found myself standing outside the orphanage in Tula, Russia, where Spence-Chapin had just started to sponsor a Granny Program - our newest and first in Russia. The Children's Home and grounds were visually pleasing.  In fact, in 2005 Spence-Chapin helped the staff at this orphanage replace dirt patches with grassy fields, install secure fencing, curbs and sidewalks, and purchase child-friendly playground equipment with a grant from The W. O'Neil Foundation.  What a joy to see the results of the project in person!

Entering the Children's Home I was struck by its bright walls, open spaces and cleanliness.  Five years ago, the director and her staff oversaw the renovation of the entire facility.  It is a model, both in its physical appearance and its operation.  The director, who was previously with a pediatric unit in a local hospital, and her staff are totally committed to "doing what's best for the children."  She is determined to "maximize each child's ability to go to a family."  It was immediately clear to me this attitude is exactly what we wanted for the successful implementation of Spence-Chapin's Granny Program in an institution where dedicated staff care for 70 children (infants to age 4), all with special needs of varying seriousness.

After an intensive two-day training with Rita Taddonio, director of Spence-Chapin's Adoption Resource Center and early child development specialist, the eight grannies and staff members were eager to begin addressing the children's cognitive and emotional development.  The director announced at the end of the training that she now felt everyone more fully appreciated the importance of the one-on-one relationship and that she would be matching each granny with two of the children most in need.

After this two day visit to the Children's Home, we can wholeheartedly assure The W. O'Neil Foundation that their underwriting of this start up of the Tula Granny Program is a wise and compassionate investment that will touch the lives of many children in a very wonderful and lasting way.

Spence-Chapin also sponsors granny programs in Bulgaria, Moldova, China and Colombia.