Much more than just survival

"I had a cloudless and sunny childhood. I had loving parents, a younger sister and relatives. Until the nineties we lived very happily and liked to spend time together. In my country the conditions became extremely intense. Russia developed big problems in the social sphere, two thirds of the population lived bordering the poverty line, there was a slump in production, and criminality and corruption grew.

In 1994 my father died after a long illness and three years later my grandfather passed away as well. These are the two most awful events which have happened to us. My family just managed to survive during this period. Hungry children knocked on our door asking for food. My grandmother gave what she could to two boys from the house across from ours. We didn’t see mum very much as she had to work a lot so that we could exist and study normally. After lessons at school my sister and I had to earn some money so we sold and delivered newspapers.

"In the summer of 1999 I went for the first time to a children's camp where I met open, friendly young people who had organised this interesting event for us. The camp coordinator was Julia Grishina, who invited everyone to get involved in the association "Orbita” that trains and works with young people and organises social events for pensioners and people who are in hospitals. Afterwards Julia introduced me to the Award and I enrolled in the programme. 

A childhood dream

"The Award has opened many doors for me and taught me a lot. I have learnt not only to survive, but to make my life interesting, and be open to new ideas and places. With the help of my second Award leader, Alexander Panov, I have fallen in love with tourism and travel. I received my Bronze Award in Finland and have travelled almost the entire region that I live in (the Republic of Karelia, Russian Federation). Together with other participants of my Award group, we have organised children's and youth camps, concerts and holidays for grandparents and helped people with health problems. Each participant has got many friends of different nationalities, religions and economic and social backgrounds. They accept you for what you are and appreciate your uniqueness. It was these principles that made me choose to get involved in the programme. Thanks to the Award, I have fulfilled my childhood dream, a dream that before seemed impossible to achieve.

"I like the Award because it shows young people how they can be successful, recognizes their achievements in society and helps them to construct their own path. Doing my Award has given me the strength and self-confidence to find solutions even when at first sight the problems appear desperate.

"Now I am an Award leader and I have an Award group. Together we plan and carry out many good deeds which make people happy. I have friends from many corners of the world, I am a member of a modern dance group, I have a job that I love and have graduated from university. I am glad that have chosen this way to live!"

Natalia Shugurova, Russia