With a mixture of sadness and celebration we closed the To Children With Love charity after 25 years and shut our lovely pink shop doors on Valentine’s Day 2022 

We chose this date to mark the love that has flowed from both you and us to thousands of children over the past quarter of a century. What started out as a one-year plan, ended up drawing us all in for much longer than we ever dreamed it would. Russia has been kind to us and the children we have cared for have brought us so much joy, it is indescribable. The lion’s share of our work there is done, but we still have children in institutions who we will personally continue to visit and help beyond the closure of the charity.

The charity bank account will close on 28th February. Donations can still be made until this date with all proceeds going to the orphanage.

What I really want people to know and understand is the way that the Irish public supported this charity for 25 years has saved tens of thousands of children from the neglect, loneliness and hopelessness that can come with growing up in an institution.

We tried to put a number on it, just to show you amazing people who have contributed to To Children With Love over the years what your hard work and generosity has achieved. We would conservatively estimate that when we count the children who have passed through the multiple orphanages over 25 years, including the children of those children, who are living in stable, happy families, we have brought our special mix of love, hope and the opportunity for a better life to over 25,000 children.

That goes from the children who may only have spent a few weeks in one of the orphanages that we worked in – maybe we never met them, but they would have received our welcome pack of a cuddly toy, new pyjamas, a toothbrush and toothpaste, etc, and that made their experience a little less frightening and improved their life in a small way – to the children who we have supported the whole way through to getting into some of the best universities in the country and for whom we might be like an Irish granny for their own children.

We cannot thank you enough for everything, your shopping, your support, your selfless donations, your time, your love, and kindness. We have been this unique and magnificent organisation because of people like you.

Debbie x

Ps. I wrote a book called The Tree by the Sea with all proceeds going to To Children With Love, my last love letter to the charity, which will hopefully raise enough money to keep the children for a period beyond the charity closing. If you would like to help one last time, go to www.thetreebythesea.ie to buy a copy.

Messages from some of our children:

To be honest, I wanted to tell and thank Debbie and all the people who made our stay at the orphanage happy for a very long time.  As an adult, I realized that it was worth a lot of work and effort.

Despite the fact that everyone is used to thinking that children in orphanages do not live very well, I can say that this period was one of the best in my life. Thanks to the foundation, I saw the sea for the first time. I remember how many days I spent there now. There was no chapel for my happiness. I learned to swim and visited the zoo for the first time. For a small child, these were the most tremendous emotions. I also clearly remember the smell of Debbie. I do not know why, but this smell remained in my memory for many years and after 12 years, when we met, I again felt this smell and her embrace, which were like family. The arrival of the singer whose name was Kim also remained in my memory. I remember how we had a cool time on the hill in winter on the slide and rode it on everything we could use as a sleigh.

We also had a holiday, in my opinion, a ten-year foundation. They brought us such a huge trampoline, then it seemed that it was just gigantic, as if to heaven.  The magicians and clowns performed in front of us, and there was also a python. I was just shocked because I am afraid of snakes, but after a while I calmed down and was even able to touch it. To be honest, I remember a lot. I remember how many presents for the New Year. I remember every trip to the circus, camp, on excursions.  But the most important memory was that there was a clear feeling that I was not alone, that they were taking care of me.  I loved this place and these people very much. I am happy that I was given such a happy childhood. Just thanks. I do not know, maybe my appeal will seem stupid, but this is really one of the happiest periods of my life. I am very grateful.

Alena Shukaeva

Year 1997. I, a little girl who will soon turn 8 years old, find myself in a godforsaken place under the short name Khotylevo. Hello everyone! My name is Julia, and this is my story of meeting Debbie Deegan and her team of angels.

Khotylevo, 1998, about 150 children inhabiting this place, abandoned by their own parents, left in the arms and conscience of complete strangers. The spacious territory of the boarding school in a pine forest, howling from endless draughts, buildings for various purposes. Leaking ceilings, dampness, mould, peeling paint, dirt and darkness were the main aspects of these buildings, in which the children lived and studied.

A pack of dogs, cats and rats – the favourite pets of these children – terrified even the permanent employees of the boarding school. Grimy children of different ages, from 7 to 16 years old, in old shabby clothes, prowling everywhere and finding entertainment even in tying a cockroach with a thread. Teaching and raising children was extremely difficult, the reason was the acute shortage of educational literature, supplies and equipment.

You can write about the quality of life of those children for a long time and believe me, it’s better to just read about it, but not see it, because, having seen those conditions at least once, you would never be able to forget that horror! However, what you see to be a nightmare was the norm for the children living there, and even a very good option for life, because many had not seen anything better in their lives.

One day, when nothing foreshadowed significant events, a car of incredible size slowly drives into the territory of the orphanage.  Who would have thought that this particular day would be the beginning of an incredible transformation of our entire existence, our worldview, way of life? Of course, we were told that a big car of gifts would arrive, which was designated, in a word, “CONVOY”, but how could we believe it, because it doesn’t happen!

Children and adults at the same moment surrounded the “CONVOY” with interest, examining and expecting an answer to the question “What’s inside?”. The doors were thrown open to reveal the large boxes filling the trailer from floor to ceiling. Each child received a box with their name on it. That evening, many tasted sweets for the first time, each child was indescribably delighted with their gifts. Discussion and study of the contents of the boxes dragged on for several days and even weeks. For me, the most important and favourite part of the gift was and remains my yellow Bologna jacket, because I did not know before that such warm, cosy and beautiful clothes can be.

A little later we had the opportunity to get acquainted with the initiator of all that was happening. Smiling, kind, with luminous eyes, exuding the magical scent of ETERNITI, the woman is Debbie Deegan.  Since then, the lives of children have rapidly turned into a fairy tale, the efforts of friendly and caring Irish people have rebuilt buildings, an opportunity to receive a quality education, diversified development, we have seen other countries, what life can be and have become striving for the better. Many of us have become doctors, police officers, started our own businesses and started a family.

25 years have passed, I am a happy mother of three wonderful children, I have my own home, a bright future and a happy past! Even in old age, surrounded by numerous grandchildren, I will not forget the emotions that Debbie and her faithful angels gave me, I will always remember how quickly this little girl’s heart beat at the sight of that giant car that started it all!  Thank you for your life, which you have dedicated without hesitation to saving abandoned little lives!  Thank you for the chance to live, not exist, thank you for the smiles and faith in a miracle that you gave us!

With endless gratitude and boundless love from Julia, from Russia.

Julia Gulova

Hello dear Debbie, very sad news about the charity closure.  After all the massive amount of work done by yourself and helping us for such a long time…it is very sad! I can’t even find the right words to tell my sorrow of all that’s happening. I don’t know the reasons to close the charity but I know only one thing, the closure won’t stop me feeling every Irish person is a part of myself, because I’m part of each of you. This started 25 years ago and will continue to the end of my days! Every person of your small (but great country for me) will be my brother, sister, grandmother and grandfather.  We love, love and will always love you.

Andrei Danilkin

I remember when I got to boarding school, I was only 9 years old. Debbie came over and gave me a blanket and then I went to Ireland. It was very unusual. Debbie supports me to this day. Lots of good people – Kim McCade, Mairtin with a guitar and Chuppa Chupps and a lot of other people who have been kind to me.

Julia Nemtseva

Hi Debbie, the most wonderful memories in Khotylevo, when we planted trees in front of the building where the girls lived, when Mairtin sang with us, danced and let us play the guitar, even when we went to the circus to perform. It was also very cool when there was cooking and gaining experience. When you gave us bicycles, every day someone knew how and someone learned to ride them. Our performances with dances for you, it was nice that we had something to work with and surprise you. We had the most unforgettable Last Bell. We are very glad that you took us to a cafe and presented gifts for graduation. Those were the best and coolest moments of the days I spent with you.

Alla Lukasheva

Hello everyone! My name is Lyuba and this is my story of meeting Debbie Deegan and her team of angels.

In 2005, I was brought to Khotylevo. When I got used to the environment and the people, I realized that I was in a very good place, where there were very kind, friendly and attentive people to children.  here were a lot of children, about 200 people.  At that moment it seemed to me that I was in a fairytale, because it was warm and cosy there.

I can’t remember exactly when I first met Debbie Deegan and her team, but I do remember that it was a very happy meeting with people who gave us all their care, affection and attention.  I remember very well how Mairtin taught us to play the guitar and how we sang songs with him, it was very fun and unforgettable.  I also remember going to Ireland. This trip was unforgettable for me.

I am already 25 years old, I have a family and two wonderful children, but I still remember all the happy moments with Debbie Deegan and her team. I am very grateful to these people for giving us a chance to live and be happy, for giving us their love, care, smiles and attention that was so lacking. Thank you very much for helping me in Khotylevo and helping me to this day, although I am already an adult. Thank you for always supporting me in difficult life situations. All my life I will remember all the people who were in Khotylevo and helped me get on the right path in life.

With endless gratitude and boundless love from Russia.

Lyuba H.

Debbie and all Irish friends, I am glad that I met you all and learned a lot of new things for myself in my life. I met all of you in Khotylevo when I was 12 years old, and I am not a bit sorry that I met you, also I met a wonderful person Grainne, she is a very good and loving woman and mother. I can write a lot about all of you, words will not be enough, but most importantly, you are all very good people and I am grateful to you for everything, but it’s a pity that we rarely see each other.

Nastya Kovtunova

I have a lot of vivid and wonderful memories of Debbie and Children with Love. I want to share the most memorable ones for me. Firstly, meeting the lovely and kind Debbie and Patricia. Then there was an acquaintance with young, cheerful, bright volunteers with huge open hearts. I will never forget when, thanks to all these caring people, we were sent to rest in a summer camp and I saw the SEA for the first time! I remember everything from the train ride to the beach and the sand and how we all had great fun that summer. When we returned back to the boarding school, the renovated buildings were waiting for us. It was something incredible after we lived twenty children in a room. They began to live for 2 – 4 children. We have new playrooms, shower rooms, a first-aid post and a large new dining room.  Life has become comfortable and cosy. Irish volunteers came and lived with us. They tried to teach us to cook in English, but in the end we taught them Russian – not good words :). And of course, the most unforgettable memory in my life is a trip to Ireland. Patricia invited me to visit her. I met her whole big friendly and loving family. For me, this became an example that when I grow up, I will also have the same friendly and strong family. For the first time in my life I saw the ocean. I was visiting the wonderful Dermot and his charming wife Pauline. I saw a lot of new and interesting things. Everything cannot be described in words. I am very grateful to the Irish friends who did so much for the children who found themselves in such difficult circumstances against their will in a small unknown place called Khotylevo.  When I left Ireland Patricia told me: Veta, if it is difficult or sad for you, look at the moon and know that at this moment I also look at it and think of you. And every time I do this, and I know that at the moment I am not alone.  Thank you all very much for what you did for us. With love,

Veta Smiyan

I will never forget when our Irish friends came to our boarding school and there was a very tall African American with them, his name is Jerome.  At that time, we had never seen such people. At first we were afraid to even approach him, but then all the children simply could not move away from him. This is a strong, cheerful and kind man. We played basketball on the basketball court all day. Yes, it was a great time, of course. Time flew by very quickly and not noticeable. I would really like to say hello to Gordan and his wonderful wife and children. We stayed at their house when we were in Ireland with Sasha Kamarov. Many more thanks and thanks to Debbie Deegan and all the people who helped me and all the children. You raised our orphanage from feet to knees. Many thanks and God bless you long years of life, health, and prosperity in all matters. Thank you,

Sergey Golanov

I’m Elena Kotlyarova. My story. When I was 7 years old, Irish volunteers came to Khotylevo, and Emma Ghosn was among them. She was what I thought was tall, short hair, yellow pants and a green jacket. When we met her, I wanted to communicate more with her and she was very sweet and kind. At that time, she was 18 years old, a student. We walked, talked and laughed. She was very funny and cool.

When I turned 9, I was told that I was going to Ireland, I was very happy.  When I arrived in Ireland, she met me at the airport, and we went to her house. On the way, we stopped at McDonald’s for a meal.  When we came to her home, her parents, Pat, Kach, Sarah, were waiting for us there, they received me very warmly and gave me a lot of love. Since then, I have travelled to Ireland every summer.

Now Emma has three children of her own and a wonderful husband, but she still loves me, and I am her beloved daughter only from Russia. I love her very much.

Lena Kotlerova

My parents died early. In the late 90s, I arrived at the boarding school in Khotylevo from a baby house. From birth I was diagnosed with heart disease. For a long time, I lived on the verge of life and death, each new day could be my last. Just imagine a small, thin and weakened child’s body, in which a sick heart beats with great effort. I was told from an early age that I would not live long, that with such a diagnosis I would not be able to grow up and live a full life! And I was ready for any outcome, even the worst.

Once the doctors just took me away and said that preparations were beginning for an operation, which would be the beginning of my recovery, that there was a chance to live fully. Then I already knew about the organization “To Children with Love” and the beautiful woman Debbie Deegan, who raised a huge amount to save my body and soul. The operation was successful, a huge scar on the child’s body, a repaired heart, but this was only the beginning of recovery. Debbie was there, she lived it and shared my pain and fear with me, provided support.

I received special care, gifts and love, care and fulfilment of desires during my many years in the boarding school. We began to dress well, ate hearty, studied, travelled abroad, visited theatres, parks, a circus, we had many additional developmental activities for every taste and hobby. Our birthdays were celebrated individually, as if we were not part of the crowd, but a separate independent person!

All this and much more was given to us by Debbie Deegan and her team!  Returning to Khotylevo after each medical examination, I could not help but notice how much the boarding school was changing and developing, the children became cleaner, kinder and happier, fear and pain of the past were less and less read in their eyes.

After graduating from school, they did not leave me without support and continued to follow my fate until I stood firmly on my feet. Now I am a full-fledged man, boldly walking through life and a strong, healthy and endlessly grateful heart beats in my chest!

Thank you all very much, you have been working a miracle for 25 years, your hard work is an example for all of us and an invaluable gift to future generations of those children whose destinies have changed under your big and strong wing! With love,

Sergey Ivanov

Hello! My name is Olya. My life, like everyone else’s, consists of white stripes and black ones. In our life, always after the bad comes something good. It so happened that my childhood quickly ended. Me and my brothers and sisters were taken to an orphanage. I ended up in Khotyleva in 1997. At that time, I was 13 years old. It was a difficult teenage age. That age when we are always right, and everything should be as we want. But in life everything is different.

In Khotyleva, I still had my little sister and brother, and taking care of them fell on my shoulders. In Khotyleva at that time, the living conditions were not very good to be honest. We lived 15 people per room. In this regard, there were many diseases such as scabies, lice and because of this, many girls could not grow long hair and we wore short boy haircuts. The food was also not very good. The laundry, the dining room and the rooms in which we were in a state of ruin.

But everything changed in 1998 when a fairy appeared in our school. This is a woman, the guardian angel of all Khotyleva’s children, with her huge team of guardian angels. Debbie Deegan, you are the best. This large team led by this wonderful woman turned our world upside down! It is only thanks to these people and their kind hearts that our life has changed. And the smell of her perfume called “Eternity” forever remained in our hearts. From that year on, we began to live differently.

During the summer while we were resting at the children’s camp, we were built a new laundry, a canteen, a medical block and even new buildings in which we lived. It was so beautiful there. We began to live in rooms for 2 or 4 people. Each room was equipped with new beds, wardrobes and nice clean linens. Each room was cosy and warm like home. In the dining room, they began to feed us well, tasty food from beautiful dishes. And also from Ireland big cars came to us that brought to our school for the new year many large boxes in which there were many gifts, sweets, clothes for each child. It was such a miracle and such a joy. My life in Khotyleva is full of the most wonderful memories. It was the happiest childhood time for me. Now I am an adult. Now I have my own family. My beloved husband and my two wonderful daughters. I am very glad that in my life there were people dear to me who helped me cope with all the difficulties in my life and showed that you can live a normal, happy life. I am very grateful to Debbie Deegan and her entire team for their love, kindness and care. You are the most precious thing that will forever remain in my heart. THANKS FOR YOU STILL BEING IN MY LIFE. I love you to the moon and back. Forever yours,