Making Smiles Happen Everyday


Giving Children a Brighter Future


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 chance to shine – the Rising Tide initiative

Not so long ago, a school in Dublin was buzzing with unbridled excitement. At times, you’d think it was taking part in a high-energy television series about American teenage drama students. However, this was happening in Finglas – think Glee with a Dublin accent.

This all came about when the Young Americans, comprising 40 globetrotting students, descended on Colaiste Eoin. Their mission? “To promote understanding and goodwill, through music, dance, academic education and cultural interaction.” The Young Americans empower children of every colour and from every conceivable background to become the person they really, really want to be,” says their spokesman.

The link between the school in Finglas and the Young Americans is Holly Foley, a passionate 31 year old, who is currently in the throes of a PhD at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). What makes this interesting is the fact that she is the first person in her family to experience tertiary education. In fact, her mother Deborah Matthews, like so many of her generation, had to leave school at 14.

But even so, Deborah knew instinctively that education brings freedom. So when one day, she heard Gay Byrne extolling the virtues of reading to small children, she began reading to her daughter, Holly, who was then just 10 weeks old. So, Holly’s fate was irrevocably sealed by a book – and a very sound mum. (Deborah has since earned a master’s in health education).

Holly’s love of the written word led her to spend all her First Communion money on books.

When she was 13, she won £100 in an essay competition, and she spent all that money not on clothes, music or make-up, but on books. In Fifth Year, she joined her Crumlin school’s TCD access programme. The purpose was to “encourage young adults and ethnic minority students who come from socio-economic groups under-represented in higher education, to go to university.”

Holly was invited to ‘shadow’ a law student at the college. “Until then, university wouldn’t have been anywhere near my radar,” she says, “but the access programme changed all that.”

Following a successful Leaving Certificate, she, began a one-year foundation course at TCD, along with 24 other pupils from Deis (delivering equality of opportunity in schools) schemes. “Most of us on the course were first generation college-goers,” says Holly. “It definitely did give me the confidence I needed to move on.”

Holly then did a degree in European studies and learned Russian. She spent a year in Moscow, while living in a student hostel. “It was fascinating and so international,” she enthuses. “We even had people from a circus in Dagestan staying at the hostel. However, surviving the winter was another challenge.”

Following that degree, Holly then went on to do a master’s at UCD in European and economic public affairs. That then led her back to TCD, where currently, she is doing a PhD at the children’s research centre. She is now married to David Hesnan; they have a five-year-old daughter called Daisy, who, not surprisingly, loves books.

In February of this year, Holly saw an advertisement for a project coordinator for a new initiative called the Rising Tide. She was so sure this was the perfect fit for her, she dashed off a letter, straight from the heart, to Debbie Deegan. And she got the coveted job.

Debbie founded To Children with Love in 1998, an organisation which teaches life skills to young people in Russia, so they can achieve a brighter future. The programme has been so successful, many of those children, have gone on to become well-grounded, successful professionals.

Over the years, Debbie was encouraged to do something similar for Irish children. So this indomitable campaigner came up with the idea for the Rising Tide project. “The aim,” says Holly, “is to raise the aspirations of pupils. We want to help them to increase their belief in themselves, so they can follow a pathway that really interests them. We’re here to support them in that.”

Colaiste Eoin in Finglas was chosen as the pilot project, because the staff, led by principal Paula O’Brien, was fully supportive of the initiative. Already, evidence of its existence is all over the school. The noticeboard is crammed with photographs of enraptured pupils dancing, acting and having loads of fun with the Young Americans. “Some terribly shy children actually got up on that stage and sang their hearts out,” says Holly.

There are several other projects on the go, including a boot camp for budding entrepreneurs, who are expected to give a portion of their profits back to the school. A gardening project is teaching new skills, while giving the pupils a sense of pride in their environment. The club room is defined by muddy, sturdy boots and gardening tools.

Four pupils were sponsored to attend the Connemara Maths Academy at Kylemore Abbey for a week during the summer, where they learned through discovery, creativity and adventure. “They had a fantastic time,” says Holly, “so different from anything they might have experienced at school.” They, along with many of the other pupils, are now enjoying the eBay Study Hub, a fantastic multimedia facility at the school, sponsored by the American multinational.

But maths boffins and computer whizzes are not the only ones being catered for here. The intention is that any child with hopes and aspirations, and the willingness to work hard, will be helped to achieve their fullest potential.

“If someone wants to be a plumber, then we will help them be the best plumber possible,” Holly explains. “If someone else wants to be a cardiac surgeon, then we will help them along that pathway.” She says while all 160 children at the school will benefit from the various programmes, 12 to 16 pupils who have a “genuine drive to succeed” will be awarded scholarships. A huge effort will be put into supporting them to achieve their highest potential, be it academic, artistic, or technical.

One of the most heart-warming features of this project is the fact that much of the sponsorship money comes from KSG, a leading catering service provider, which is based in Finglas. “Lots of people who work for them live in this area,” says Holly. “We’re really proud of that.”

For more information, see or email Holly Foley at

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

The Rising Tide Project

The Rising Tide Project 

To Children With love is now taking its wealth of experience in helping disadvantaged children and young people and launching The Rising Tide Project for Irish secondary schools.  This is a holistic and inclusive initiative, which aims to tackle educational inequality through a suite of progressive and holistic supports for secondary school students living in areas of social and/or economic disadvantage. 

The Rising Tide project will foster and encourage every students untapped academic, sporting, entrepreneurial and creative talents. The ultimate aim of the project is to increase  progression rates to Universities, colleges, apprenticeships and the workplace and to ensure that students graduate from secondary school with the relevant qualifications and self-belief to forge successful and fulfilled lives in their communities. 

A rising tide lifts all boats…’ – John F. Kennedy

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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