Some time ago you could read that Fors MW this year instead of Christmas presents for staff and dealers donates money to a charity. The staff voted last week between two nominated candidates, and an orphanage in Sillamäe stood as "winners".
Today I visited along with Vice President Peter Kastberg, the orphanage "Lootus" which means "Hope" in Estonian, in the city Sillamäe not more than 20 km from the Russian border. We handed over our gifts but also 4 large bags of Christmas sweets that was much appreciated.
It was with eager anticipation we approached the orphanage. What would we encounter? Worn gray walls and a staff that almost seemed uninterested? We were met with open arms by a wonderful group of women with manager Tatyana Bajeva in the lead. The walls were anything but gray. They shifted in warm colors. Around was incredibly scenic Christmas ornaments which the children had made themselves. We sat down for a moment's conversation with the staff that engaged spoke about the orphanage and the children who live there.
The orphanage has existed since 1995 and currently has 26 children of whom the youngest is 2 years old. Most of the children remain at home until their 18th birthday. This is since children who pass 4 - 5 years rarely are adopted by a family. Estonia believes that children as much as possible should stay in the country and not be adopted abroad. The orphanage also has a day center for disabled children
Furthermore; the staff told us that most of the children that end up here come from families where there is alcohol misuse or where you can clearly see mental illness. Sillamäe is a city with nearly 16 000 inhabitants. A city that in the Soviet Union time was a so-called closed city where only certain Estonians where allowed to visit. Main reason for that was the oil shale that the Soviet Union broke in the area and mainly used to produce uranium. It was also one of the reasons why the "green revolution" in Estonia in late 80 ties engaged people that protested against oil shale mining and the production of uranium. A projected that has had far-reaching consequences for the city's population. Many are the children born with disability and deformity. Unfortunately, many suffer from cancer as well. In the traces of the crisis many people have also lost their jobs.
I remember my first visit to the city for more than 12 years ago. It was a city in distress, but thanks to a devoted mayor and grants from the EU, the city has at least gotten on their feet. Orphanage Hope is a good example of this. It was a lovely and unusual morning spent in Sillamäe. To visit the orphanage was a visit filled with hope and joy with people who each and every one of them signifies the message of Christmas - to care for people around us!
For more pictures click at the link (PDF)
Ulrica Fors Stenmarck
Chairman AS FORS MW