Every Child Deserves to Dream

Nelly Lavrushko, 10
Mariupol, Ukraine

Over the last few years, the south eastern Ukrainian suburb of Mariupol has become an armed conflict zone.  While many families fled the area, others remained, as they simply had nowhere else to go.  Ten-year-old Nelly Lauvrushko and her elderly parents are among the small group of residents who must live in the war-torn city because they are too poor to restart their lives elsewhere.

Nelly’s father is retired and receives a small pension, and her mother makes a modest income selling hand-made bags.  However, every member of the family suffers from health problems, so all available resources are spent on medical treatments.  As a result, the Lauvrushko family is forced to live in a poorly insulated, one-room hovel that is heated by a single small stove.  Because they cannot afford coal to heat their home, the family huddles together throughout the long winters, burning scraps of paper and wood in the stove to stay warm. 

While Nelly was always a bright and fun-loving child, the war dulled her spirit and caused her to sink into deep depression.  To make matters worse, Nelly began exhibiting symptoms of severe PTSD.  Plagued by feelings of helplessness, Nelly retreated into herself and had a difficult time connecting with her loved ones.  She avoided her peers entirely, and her grades began to falter.  Nelly’s mother became concerned that she would lose her daughter entirely and reached out to LifeChanger FSU for help.

Olga Mitrofanova, the LifeChanger FSU regional coordinator moved quickly to provide Nelly with the professional help she required.  Weekly sessions with a psychologist helped Nelly overcome her PTSD, open up to her parents and connect with her peers, while regular medical examinations and treatments allowed her to overcome her health problems.  Olga also paired Nelly with a tutor, who helped her boost her grades, and in turn, her self-esteem.

LifeChanger FSU also encouraged Nelly to become involved in sports, which further enhanced her confidence.  A few months ago, Nelly, now strong and self-assured, won her very first medal in a martial arts competition.

“All 10-year old girls need dreams and aspirations.  Nelly is finally in a healthy enough place that she has begun to dream big and aspires to greatness,” says Olga.  “In addition to martial arts, she is also taking a jewelry-making class and is considering learning how to play a musical instrument and taking drawing classes as well.”

Nelly’s mother bemoans the fact that her daughter has already been through so much at such a young age but is thankful that LifeChanger FSU has helped get her back on track.  “We wish that we could have prevented these real grown-up problems from hovering over her head.  At just 10 years-old, she has seen more than any parent wants their child to see in a lifetime.  But with the help of LifeChanger FSU, she has move passed the fear and the trauma.  She now has stability and has tasted success, and it doesn’t look like anything can stand in the way of her fulfilling her dreams.”