Hello, my name is Einārs. I am 23 years old, and at the moment I am studying for a professional qualification as a computer designer at the Baltic International Academy in Riga. I am still under the guardianship of the Children’s Village of Graši. I will soon be 24, the age at which all state funding for orphans or children without parents comes to an end, which means that the guardianship of Graši will also end.

It is no secret that in Latvia and the rest of the world there are many children who, for whatever reasons, are left without parents – perhaps the parents suffer from addictions such as gambling, narcotics, alcoholism, or are abusive, or don’t take care of their children for some other reason. As a result, the child either runs away, or is abandoned, or else a government institution takes away the rights of the parents because they are unable to care for their child. Of course, it is possible for an accident to deprive the child of parents. So life has dealt me this hand, and I am one of the children without parents.
    I lived with my biological parents up to the age of six. The next three years were spent at an orphanage in Riga, but from the age of 9 I have been under the care of the Children’s Village of Graši. Because of this I want to share my good experiences here. I want to mention the fact that Graši is the first privately run children’s home in Latvia, founded as the result of the idea of one single person. Over time, the children’s home was created with the support of family, friends and new acquaintances. Graši is in the district of Madona, near the village of Cesvaine. Graši is different from the Riga orphanage where I had lived, and from the other orphanages, I think, where there is usually one big building with a lot of children in it. I think it is important to mention that Graši, unlike state orphanages, came into being from personal initiative and goodwill. There are several family-type houses at Graši, each with about 8 children plus the educators, which means that each child can be raised as an individual. There were various outings, events, and the children have the opportunity to go to France, where each has a host family. All this is associated in my mind with the fact that Graši tries to create a family atmosphere to fill in for the lack of parents. And I want to say that Graši succeeds in this.

Riga’s Construction Colleague
After finishing elementary school, I saw that my strengths were maths and drawing, so I chose to study at Riga Building College, where the program of study is four years and leads to a professional qualification – architecture technician. Graši supported my decision. It is essential to say here that it is not possible to stay at a state orphanage after reaching the age of 18; a one-time payment is received, as well as a small living space and 45 LVL per month up to the age of 24. Thanks to the financial and moral support of Graši, I could continue my studies at Riga Building College and didn’t feel the break at the age of 18, which unfortunately is felt by most young adults from the state orphanages.
When I moved to Riga, I lived for two years at the school residence. This was my first experience of living without the supervision of the Graši staff, which meant that I had to plan my own time and fulfill my daily obligations. Life at the school residence was great, because there were classmates and friends around, it was easy to meet students from other years; classmates and older students you could give advice. But sound insulation was not a priority when the building went up, so the drawback was that the noise from neighbours’ rooms and the main corridor didn’t make studying easier.

Photos of Riga’s appartement
After that I lived in the Graši apartment in Riga, which provided good conditions for continuing my studies because it is quieter and more private. You could feel at home there, and invite friends to visit. Four of us from Graši shared the friendly atmosphere. Thanks to the financial and moral support from Graši, and to having somewhere to live, all of us could study for our chosen profession instead of being forced to work at a job we didn’t like.

Photos of Riga International Academy
When I had graduated from the Riga Building College and received the qualification of architecture technician, I realised that architecture is not my vocation, and I chose something that the knowledge I had would be useful for, but where there would be greater scope for creativity. I was interested in good and creative ideas, their visual presentation, self-motivation, an unlimited choice of presentations, and being able to plan the time for the realisation of an idea. Various creative programs, such as three-dimensional modeling programs, picture and video processing and creation programs, help to learn various ways of making something. So I chose to study for the qualification computer designer at the Baltic International Academy. Because of my Graši contacts and my host family in France, I could work in France during the summers to earn my tuition fees.
The Graši staff create a family atmosphere in Graši and support us, wherever we are, after we turn 18 so we can acquire a profession and become independent. Graši is associated with parents and home, because I am always welcome there, and together with the staff we can reminisce about the mischief we got into as children.
When I turn 24 I will complete my final year at the Baltic International Academy, work part-time, and have my own apartment. After that I plan to work in an area that has to do with the creative professions – either in Latvia or in France. I will also visit my host family in France, because we are always in touch. Of course I will also visit Graši to meet the staff and see the new children, who will be the same as I was – a little child looking for his place in the world.
   I wish the Graši staff all the best in continuing their mission. To supporters I say, don’t hesitate – your help will help a small child without parents fulfill a dream.

Thank you!

My name is Voldemārs, and I am 23. I came to Graši when I was 6 and lived here for 10 years. I have a lot of good memories from this time. We were like a big family, we lived like brothers and sisters, got into mischief, and sometimes figured out excuses not to go to school. I am glad that I got a new family at Graši, because I didn’t have one of my own.

While I was at Graši I went to Kraukļi elementary school. After grade 9, I went to the region of Kurzeme, where I attended the Dzīvesprieks-Livslust professional school, where I trained as a chef’s assistant. After a year, the Children’s Village of Graši offered me the chance to continue my studies at a professional cooking school in France. I agreed right away, and moved there.

Photos of Voldemārs
I chose to become a cook because even as a child I loved to work in the kitchen. When I agreed to go to France, I didn’t realise what it would be like. The beginning was very hard – everything was in French. I could speak fairly well, but had to take lessons in reading and writing. The French educational system is different from Latvia’s. The accent there is on practical skills. I had an apprenticeship with a good restaurant for two years. I worked for 3 weeks in a row, and then spent one week at school. For two years I put to use what I had learned in ach of the weeks of school. I also had the chance to apprentice in Scotland and Portugal.
I like working in a team, and I learned to be responsible for my job. I even had the chance to teach something to the newer apprentices. Meat and fish dishes are my favourites, but I also like vegetables. Working in a French restaurant kitchen means that I have learned to prepare various dishes. I like to experience interesting flavours.
The hardest thing about being in France is that I don’t have a complete command of the language. Also, it is necessary to know about the French legal system in order to pay taxes and provide documentation for various institutions. My French host family, with whom I have spent more than 10 summers, helps a lot with all this.
In my free time I enjoy doing sports. I prefer team sports – volleyball and basketball. I like surfing and snowboarding. I am also learning to play the guitar.
I try to visit Latvia every year during my holidays. I always visit Graši and help with various jobs. A year ago I got my driver’s license. In the future, I would like to learn how to develop my own business. I would like to open a restaurant of my own.
Thank you!

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