Migrant and refugee families suffer a huge dislocation. The children of such families feel the consequences, even if they were very young, or not yet born, at the time of their family’s move. They often lack the resources to verbalise and cope with what they are experiencing. At the International Centre for Refugees and Migrants in Moscow, the “Kids are Kids” programme gives hope for a better future to at least some of those children.
The children attend sometimes two sessions a week, sometimes more, clocking up between 100 – 350 hours over the academic year. The centre also organises social activities, parties, picnics, and excursions.
Here are some of their stories (the children’s names have been changed).
Mehrdad and Salar
Mehrdad (15 years old) and Salar (8 years old) were born in Moscow, their parents having moved from Tajikistan just before Mehrdad was born. The children have been coming to the Centre for a year.
Before starting at the Centre, Mehrdad was a poor student – he didn’t like learning, was shy and withdrawn, and had problems with getting on with his class-mates. After only a year of coming to “Kids are Kids”, Mehrdad started to feel better about himself and this was reflected in his attitude and the quality of his work. Thanks to his success at school, he is now thinking about his life-goals and a future profession. He works hard at maths, physics, Russian and English. He worked with a psychologist from the organisation who deals with bullying in schools, and this will help Mehrdad to begin to overcome the problems he has socialising at school. Mehrdad also loves football, so he was encouraged to attend football sessions. He never speaks about his feelings, which can make it difficult for him to interact with his peers.
Now his goal is to be a programmer. He is attending training courses in a company which might be able to offer him an internship. He is satisfied, and trying hard.
Before Salar came to the Centre, he didn’t speak any Russian at all, and had problems with diction. With the support of the teaching staff and a speech therapist, he quickly began to learn and now speaks Russian accurately and enthusiastically. He is easy-going, playful, and bright. He takes responsibility for his work, loves to help people, and enjoys going to football sessions. He has found a best friend, and they are both doing well.
Azaar, Esin and Ferhana
The young people from the Saidi family from Afghanistan are Azaar (17), Esin (15) and Ferhana (14). The family came from Kabul 18 years ago and the children were all born in Moscow. They have been coming to the centre for five years now.
Azaar, the oldest, is calm and confident. He has been attending the centre for two lessons each week and is particularly enthusiastic about chemistry and English. His teachers encouraged him to discover biology and he is now planning to study medicine.
Esin is an independent teenager with a strong sense of fun. She studies Russian, English and biology at the centre and, lie her big brother, she is planning to study medicine. At the moment she takes part in the “Entrepreneurs of the Future” course where she learns about business procedures, team-work, and goal-setting. The Centre has provided a computer to facilitate this process.
Ferhana is the youngest; she makes friends easily and is being supported in her study of English, Russian, algebra and geometry. Like her two older siblings, she had always intended to become a doctor, but having attended a programming course, she discovered a talent in this subject and is thinking about this profession as a possible future career .
All three children from the family enjoy attending the parties organised by the centre!
Zahra, Shabana and Arash
They too have been attending the centre for five years.
Zahra has become a successful student thanks to the support of the centre, showing improvement in Russian, English, algebra, geometry and physics. She attended programming courses and is also one of the “Entrepreneurs of the Future” – she really enjoys this course, which helps her to integrate more into the local community. She has extra lessons in physics and maths, as this is the direction she would like to follow as a career.
She particularly enjoyed the excursion to the Armenian Museum.
Shabana dreams of becoming a doctor and is working hard at Russian, English, biology and maths. She is very modest and the tutors at the centre are working with her to increase her self-confidence. She is another “Entrepreneur of the Future”, and in this course she learns to express her point of view confidently and to listen to others.
She particularly enjoyed the excursion to the Museum of Folk Arts.
Arash, the youngest, joined the centre from a pre-school programme. He learns Russian, maths and English. He is a calm and smiling child.
Dilshad and Ester
Dilshad and Ester, who have been attending the centre since autumn 2017, have had a turbulent life so far. Their family went from Iran to Afghanistan, where life was extremely difficult for their calligrapher father, and then moved to Tajikistan, where they were given no support whatsoever.
They moved to Russia in the hope of a better life, but were unable to regularise their situation. In Moscow, the younger siblings were able to attend a local school, but Dilshad and Ester were left out of the educational system. The girls are keen to learn and even though they live far from the city, they attend all the classes they are offered. They are studying Russian, English, maths and history, and have begun to speak fluently and learn about the culture of their adopted home. Ideally they will be able to sit the state exams for their year group (Grade 9).
Gloria and her daughter Dominique
Gloria originally came from the Democratic Republic of Congo; when she was 22 years old she became homeless, having been forced out of her home by her older relatives after the death of her parents. In the DRC, homeless people are forced into camps, but she escaped and, along with three other young women, was trafficked to Morocco with the promise of work as a hairdresser. They were, however, kept under lock and key with a vigilant guard. In spite of this she managed to escape with the help of a client who supplied her with all the necessary documents and a ticket to Russia, where he promised that she would be met by one of his friends. At the airport, this “friend” took her documents and money and vanished. Desperate and without any knowledge of the language, she was very lucky in that she met a man from the Congo who took her to his church where her compatriots helped her and gave her shelter.
Gloria was already pregnant when she arrived in Russia. After the birth of her daughter Dominique, she was given a room in an apartment where women lived with their children – everything was well-organised, and food and clothing were provided. However, it was only possible to stay there for six months, so she had to return to her former shelter which was over-crowded, and then moved on to another place where she shared a room and a bed with three other women. Her daughter was the only child there.
When Dominique was three years old, she came to the centre. Because she had never socialised with other children, she took all the toys, screamed and cried, and had tantrums when she couldn’t have what she wanted. This behaviour started to affect the whole group.
Gradually, Dominique learned that the toys were all shared and that everybody played together. Dominique is now happy to join in, and blossoms when she is praised and given attention. She loves dolls and dancing but still finds it difficult to share; but with the support of the adults, she is learning to cope.