In 2017, over 100,000 children were growing up in low-income families in St Petersburg many of which are affected by drugs and/or alcohol. Although the numbers of children and young people living in the city’s streets have drastically fallen in the last few years – official statistics put the number at just above 1000 – currently, 9,500 young people (under 18) are in trouble with the law. Following the recent reform process, seven orphanages in the city have closed down (with many of the children moving to either foster care or alternative care in smaller units) and there are now only about 1,500 young people residing in institutions for orphans. In recent years, St Petersburg has dramatically expanded and improved the services available to HIV+ people and moved from being the worse affected city in the Russian Federation to the 14th affected. The Russian Federation has committed to the UN’s 90-90-90 target but new HIV infections are understood to be increasing by 10-15% year on year, 36% of HIV+ people are on treatment and only about 27% are currently virally suppressed.
Since 2000, Upsala Circus has offered at-risk youth in St. Petersburg an alternative to street life and a path to realise their potential. Their innovative circus arts program allows young people to satisfy their penchant for risk in a safe, controlled space and channel their energy towards a path to personal development. Upsala works with crisis centres, schools, orphanages, and like-minded NGOs throughout the city to locate those most in need of their services. Upsala performs shows throughout Europe, which provides revenue to offset their program expenses while exposing participants to other cultures and building the self-esteem and self-confidence of participants as their abilities are appreciated by audiences in multiple settings. Upsala is still led by its founder Larisa Afanasova who is a theatre Director and puppeteer and has spent over 17 years working with at-risk youth and young people with disabilities. She is assisted by Programme Manager Anna Badulina and Head Coach, Yaroslav Mitrofanov.
EMpower’s sunset grant to Upsala Circus is supporting the organization’s efforts to become more sustainable by strengthening the fundraising and finance teams and providing them with the necessary tools to diversify and increase income as well as improve financial reporting. The grant is also supporting the installation of a ventilation system to the circus tent as well as the implementation of the While it’s not too late- gender equity program for one year after which it will be incorporated in Upsala’s core programmatic work.
Primary Location: St. Petersburg
Funded Since: 2012
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