making-smiles-happen-everyday

Making Smiles Happen Everyday

giving-children-a-brighter-future

Giving Children a Brighter Future

teaching-life-skills

Teaching Life Skills

We change Children’s lives in Russia and Ireland. We cant do it without your help. Every donation no matter how small makes a difference.  Please Donate.

Our Story

To Children With Love Limited (incorporating To Russia With Love Ltd) is an Irish registered charity which was founded by Dublin woman Debbie Deegan in 1998. She met a group of wonderful abandoned children in Russia suffering from a severe lack of love and made a promise to them that she would be back to help. 18 years later and over 400 trips later and she is still there. To this day she continues to carry out that promise. Over the past year Debbie has become involved with deprived children in other areas of the world including Ireland and currently To Children With Love is planning to focus on a particular project for Irish disadvantaged children. This will not affect our ongoing projects in Russia, it simply means we are bringing some of our expertise home.

Our Mission Statement

Our mission is to help transform the lives of abandoned and disadvantaged children through programmes designed to enhance their self esteem, dignity, enabling them to feel equal to their peer group in society.

We do this through programmes designed to
– enhance children’s healthcare and education
– improve children’s living conditions
– help children overcome obstacles to achievement
– teach life skills for a brighter future

Through our child centred programmes we strive to build trust, dignity, self esteem, ability and confidence to empower children to participate as equal members of society.


Click here to watch our Nationwide video.

A letter from Debbie Deegan

Dear Jk Rowling,

Standing up to you, one of my heroes, is not something I do lightly. My own children just missed the Harry Potter mania as they are all a bit older, however, I admire you more than I admire most people. I am old enough to be still enraptured by Enid Blyton. I still have images in my head from her Enchanted forest and Magic Faraway tree.

Going from “billionaire to millionaire” for children, I take my hat off to you. In fact, I bow before you and I genuinely mean that. I did attempt to meet with your CEO and discuss what we do in Russia, to see if we could work with your wonderful Charity. I flew to London with an appointment, on a 29euro flight thankfully, but sadly at the last moment, she cancelled.

I have to take you to task though, you have to be more careful about your words and did I really say that to the worlds greatest wordsmith??????? yes I did.
“All children need a family “, yes we all know that and I know your well funded, excellent charity works daily for that. I totally agree with that .. in an ideal world, but sadly we do not live in one. It is too simplistic to say that all Volunteers in orphanages are “Voluntourists”. That they “create more problems”, add longevity to children’s stay there, causing the system to be more sustainable, a system we all know is horrendous. There is no point in venting onto Volunteers, I strongly suggest you vent on the Governments who fail to apply best practice to their neediest citizens. These are the people that need your literary sword and not the volunteers who nurse, mind, care for, de-lice, cry with, blow out candles with, hug, read to, love and get abandoned children through their worst hours.

In many cases these people make their unbearable hours, more bearable. I was in Romania many years ago, I nursed a child in my arms, I thought she was 4 or 5, she was 16, her eyes had been taken by Ceausescu’s people for an operation for a wealthy child, the little one I had in my arms had never grown after this. I stayed with her for the day, I failed her, as I was not in a position to save her, but I would think to this day , she remembers the love she felt that one meager day from a Volunteer that cared.
To be honest , I am not a good carer, I do not have patience, so many who are part of my charity are so much better than me at it, I have been working with these people for years. Russia is my second home, wonderful people, good care, huge numbers of lost children to deal with after a shocking history of major war loss.

As an organisation, we don’t just fly in paying volunteers, I cannot abide organisations that do this, people who want to stick a few books in a library, or paint a few faces and feel good about themselves, the Nuns in Africa have this type of funding down to an art, it is a major fundraiser for them. Others in Europe do it also, I completely disagree with this and agree with you here, but in our case, most of our children have no one. We stand yearly at Graduation ceremonies, we are the only ones there to cheer the children on, no one turns up, no one cares enough. The children stare at the door hoping a mother might appear, they rarely do, if ever.
One of our beautiful girls died some years ago age 16, we went to her village to bury her, we brought her shocked, silent ,little brother with us, the family turned up, privately we asked them all would they take him home, no one wanted him. We took him back with us to the orphanage. He has never recovered from the rejection. We reunite where we can, we trace Grannies and Mothers if there are any, we write to prisons, we pay train tickets to encourage visitors, it is usually futile.

Please be careful when you tell us that we add to the children’s pain and problems, I have dedicated 18 years to being there for them and changing their futures, I am not good at changing their nappies, I am not good at sitting and doing the jig saws. However I am bloody great at changing their life paths.
Our Volunteers have been magnificent, just do not brush us all with the same brush thanks. — “Voluntourism is a driver of family break up” may be the case in some countries, I do not know, but it is NOT the case in Russia, history, a broken psyche, historical brainwashing by State convincing many war widows that Orphanages were better than family life, poverty, maternal disconnect to babies, is the cause.

I am so glad to have been there, with so many beautiful Russian staff and so many wonderful Irish volunteers, for so many years for the fallout from this, to be there to tuck so many in, when no one else in their world wanted to bother. Our Volunteers stayed for months, years, stayed hugging, managing, loving, enabling the healing of attachment wounds, rather than hindering them, our outcome evaluation after 18 years says it all. Ask our now grown up children. Don’t believe me. Feel free to ask any of them to talk at a conference and describe their lives, their birth families, us and our intervention. You may have to visit the hospitals where they are Doctors and the court rooms where they are lawyers if you wish to meet them though but we have magnificent children who have broken all the Stats stacked against them, they are all happy to share their stories.
They all feel part of a family, it may not be their own family, but at least it is a loving family of some type.

JK, as much as I bow to you, I get down on my knees and thank the Irish and Russian volunteers that I have watched, blow away loneliness, befriend the vulnerable, stroke bent bones, kiss blind eyes, dress small dead bodies, visit TB hospitals, stand by them in court rooms as mothers denied rights to them, restore dignity and confidence to children whose mothers and families could not, for a million reasons, love them or raise them. Save your literary sword for the big change makers and certainly do not include To Children With Loves Volunteers in your broad brushstroke. Once again, I think you are incredible, I hope you inspire the wealthy to follow your lead, there are no pockets in a shroud, now is the time to make change. As someone who is married to this sector for 18 years, thank you for all the good you have done, all the children you have helped, I wish there was more like you.

We are tiny, broke, and understaffed your Charity is huge and wealthy and I have no doubt beautifully staffed, I am jealous, absolutely, and continually inspired by you.
I also want to see the end of all big institutions, I want to see every child with its own loving mother, but until the last door closes and the last gate gets bolted, I do hope that the children we work with , know we are there to help them through their darkest hours.

Debbie Deegan.

The Legacy of Mothering

The legacy of Mothering

Debbie Deegan is the only person I know who can call you up and ask if you can “pop to Russia” in the way most others talk about popping to Aldi for the shopping. But pop to Russia we did for a jam packed 72 hour (really 24 hours given 2 days were travelling) emotional roller-coaster.

I’ve come home holding many thoughts and feelings about the few days but the thought I am consumed with is one of the value and legacy of mothering. To Children With Love is one of many small Irish charities really struggling to stay open since the recession hit and as such reflecting on the organisations legacy seems appropriate.

Two gorgeous (inside and out) Russian girls who had spent their early childhood in Hortolova orphanage before being adopted to America were making an incredible journey home to hug and be hugged by their grandmother who has held them in her head and heart since she lost them. Debbie and I were there to hold hands and supply tissues, our shoulders to lean on and our ears to listen. We are but a small part of their big story. One of the girls is herself a Mother and wanted to share that part of herself with the grandmother who mothered them both as children. There is no distance in the heart and the moment Granny opened her front door she held her girls like she would never let them go again. It was her dream come true and she said so many times. Tears flowed, smiles beamed, hands held tight as a bridge was built to overcome the pain of distance, language and loss. An incredible privilege to bare witness to a magical moment of the true love between a Mother and her babies.

That concept of how we are always and forever our Mothers babies, regardless of how old we are rang (and even sang!) loudly over dinner that night when the older girls, the first Debbie met, gathered with us for dinner to welcome their old classmates home from America. Photos were produced and memories shared, the perspective time and laughter allows providing healing to many.

One of the girls, now 28 years old and the Mother of her own two children shared a sad story of how one of the other girls who had grown up in Hortolova with them all has gone on to make some less than ideal life choices resulting in chronic alcoholism and her daughter being taking into care. The cycle of addiction and abandonment repeating itself. Not so! This wonderful girl is taking her old friends daughter into her home and family and has become her foster Mother so that she never knows the childhood of abandonment they did. The gift and message Debbie has given her has enabled her to change the cycles and instead pay forward and rescue this little girl.

Another of the girls, 32 years old and also a mother, had stayed in touch with the girls granny after they left the orphanage and pledged to them when saying goodbye that she would ensure their granny would always have groceries and a clean flat so they weren’t to worry about her once they returned to America. The care that has been given over the last 20 years means these young women can give care back to others, this is attachment at work!

Over dinner, speeches were made and glasses raised (it is Russia after all) as each person spoke of the difference To Children with Love has made in their lives…”our lives went from black and white to colour” summed it up for me. And these grown women mothering their own children all shared their fear that the charity would leave Russia and leave them. No matter how old or independent we are, we all crave and need mothering. This charity has built a family and you just don’t abandon your family!

I had coffee with an incredible young mother, parenting alone and doing a tremendous job. It’s been my immense pleasure to see her grow from a beautiful young girl into this wonderful and capable young mother. Though of course she’s not really parenting alone because To Children With Love run a life changing Young Mothers program and Olga Stepanova is teaching and coaching young girls how to mother to ensure they keep their babies and this cycle of inter-generational abandonment can be broken

I know Debbie abhors psychological speak (or “that psycho-babble big word nonsense” as she affectionately refers to my trade) but this is a longitudinal study of repair and recovery of disrupted attachment over a 20 year period and, as a clinician, I have to say this program of care works, it truly works and it changes lives, generations of lives!

This is a charity that will stretch the euro you donate further than you can believe possible. The ripple effect of what you donate is evident and small consistent changes over a prolonged period of time reverberated around that dinner table. I had a lump in my throat as one of the girls spoke of how she has kept a set of bed sheets still in plastic wrapping that came in on an aid convoy almost 20 years ago and she is now keeping those same bed sheets to gift to her own daughter when she gets married. Never underestimate the strength and impact of your generosity and compassion, it matters and your ongoing support for this charity matters!

Debbie Deegan is a powerhouse of a woman, a force to be reckoned with and an impossible woman to say no to. She gets things done, no doubt. But To Children With Love is bigger than any one person, it is a team, a family of incredibly hard working big hearted loving people who give and believe and love. That is a recipe for successful outcomes. Debbie is the lynchpin but she needs help and she needs your money, whatever you can donate.

Elaine Heffner (a psychotherapist and author on what constitutes good enough mothering) said “The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children”. You are an artist Debbie Deegant