Words from the founder

“Prosjekt Kaliningrad” was founded in 1997, motivated by the wish of helping some of the children in need that I met during my travels in Russia. Furthermore, I wanted to prove that humanitarian aid can be provided with an absolute minimum of administration costs. Ever since, we have ensured that the commitment and contributions from surrounding people and organizations actually reach the children they were meant for.
2003-05-12 Steffen Ryengen

“Prosjekt Kaliningrad” is a charitable organisation aimed at helping orphan children in Kaliningrad. The foundation is run on a voluntarily basis by myself and my father. It all started with thoughts and ideas and a burning wish to help at least some of the orphan children I had met myself in Russia. The main idea and motivation behind the project was to show that it really is possible to get humanitarian aid all the way through to those in need, and that  is also possible to get all of it through. My background before I started working with the project was a year as an exchange student in Russia. Besides learning the language, I learnt a lot about Russian society and culture both through my studies and by my extensive travelling. I was supposed to continue my Russian studies when I decided to start this humanitarian project.

Summer 1997 I went to the small Russian enclave Kaliningrad, situated between Poland and Lithuania. I was very warmly welcomed by children and employees at "Internat no 3", which was the biggest orphanage in Kaliningrad, counting 234 children between 7 and 17 years old. During the summer I studied the needs of this institution, and all practical conditions and possibilities for sending humanitarian shipments. Most importantly, I had daily care for these amazing children, whose parents for various reasons cannot or will not take care of. I got to know the staff at Internat nr 3 very well. It was obvious that many of them found it tough and demanding to work with “difficult and unwanted children”. Many of them find it hard to manae economically themselves, but still take care of the children as if they were their own.

Fall 1997, I started working with fund raising, and collecting clothes and equipment. I needed money to improve the unhygienic and unworthy sanitary conditions at the orphanage, for daily needs like food and toilet articles, and to buy necessary equipment to start different activities for the children. This was not easy. During fall 1997 we arranged three big collections. Everyone having some experience in this field knows there is much to arrange and get sponsored, like transport, cartons, storing place etc. The toughest task though, was to raise money. But when you are so personally committed to a cause, you never run out of motivation or ideas. Just after New Year, everything was ready for shipping the first two containers of 14 tons of clothes and equipment to Kaliningrad. I personally went to Kaliningrad to distribute the shipment, and to live and work in Internat no 3, improving the living-conditions there as much as I could for the money we had managed to raise.

One of the highlights in the work of establishing the foundation and the humanitarian project was the offer from Nomadic Shipping to take care of the freight of all our humanitarian shipments from Bergen, Norway to Kaliningrad. Since 1997, there have been many more shipments and tons of equipment, and Nomadic`s ships have many times taken detours to Bergen to pick up containers of humanitarian aid. Nor Cargo has provided containers for the freight every time. For a small foundation ran by two persons, my father and me, this kind of help is beyond value. With the support of Nomadic and other sponsors (listed in the sponsor page) we have been able to focus on fundraising and the actual work in Kaliningrad. Fundraising is tough work. In my opinion, this is to a high degree a result of many unserious and poorly run organisations competing for the good will of the society among us. I believe most people want to help, if they feel certain that their help actually reach the target they were meant for.

As mentioned the main idea of “Prosjekt Kalininingrad” was to show that it is possible to get all the help all the way through to those in need. This demands good planning and hard work. The custom clearance and preparations to get the humanitarian shipments through, is always done by a representative from the receiving institution and me in person. Working and negotiating with the Russian bureaucracy requires hard work, courage, stubbornness, and much, much patience.

Winter and spring 1998 I lived and worked in “Internat no 3”. My main task was to distribute the humanitarian shipments and improve the sanitary conditions and educational and physical needs of the children. I was also doing all the budgeting and accountancy for all the work carried out. Luckily, friend I had been studying Russian with vlunteered to come with me and work in the orphanage. She was a great support in an everyday life that was tough, but nevertheless full of highlights as we could see our presence and our help really making a difference. Over and over again it surprises me how little it requires to do so much for the children.

It is obvious that we get much more out of the money in Russia than what we would do with the same resources spent in Norway. But what really makes me believe that the work I am doing is worth the effort, is to see how the persons and institutions we help, manage to get so much out of the means and possibilities we give them. To see how our help releases their time and resources, so they can look ahead, instead of worrying about everyday concerns like how to feed and dress the children tells us we have been doing the right thing. It is at this stage the work of “Prosjekt Kaliningrad” really starts giving results. It is from this level we can start building up the children’s self-confidence, give them education and help them prepare for getting a job when they get old enough. The Russian society is tough, especially for those with the lowest status. The orphan children are painfully aware of this.

When it comes to support and fundraising, I believe feedback is very important. Since I started up in 1997 I have put much effort into trying to give everybody supporting the project feedback on what we have managed to do for the children, thanks to their support. This is also the main reason for making this web-site. I hope it can be a forum for information, feedback, and comments for everybody involved or wanting to contribute.

Today it is much easier for me to get support for "Prosjekt Kaliningrad". I believe this is very much due to our achievments and proven results. I also hope it is because I have showed that trying to help others is really worth the effort.

Thanks to hard and untiring work, taking one step at the time, and support from businesses, private persons, and organisations, we have been able to expand. Since 2000, we have been helping two more institutions in Kaliningrad. The two institutions are Krylovo, a home for mentally retarded children, housing 150 children, and Kolosovka, prison/work colony for youngsters, home of 190 boys and girls between the age of 14 and 21. In Kolosovka the youngsters are now given the opportunity to learn a profession while serving their sentence. After having served, they obtain help to get a job.  

Thanks to all of you, who are supporting our work, my father and I, can maintain a high activity level. We both work without any compensation and spend all the time we can on helping the children in Kaliningrad. We emphasize the principles of empowerment, and helping others to help themselves. We have truly experienced that the people receiving our help can do very much themselves, if they only get some basic resources to start with. Unfortunately the work my father and I can do depends on support from others. We need all the help we can get, and I can personally guarantee that all the help reaches the children in need.

We hope you too want to contribute to making the lives for orphan children in Kaliningrad worth living.

Cecilie Nordstrøm, Leader "Prosjekt Kaliningrad"