When there's no father: how volunteers help boys from single-parent families
In Ukraine, about 3 million children live in single-parent families. Mostly with mothers and grandmothers without a father. It was for boys who lack the father example that Cherkasy resident Vitalii Andriets and like-minded people founded the Wise Carpenter workshop. Here children learn carpentry and a responsible attitude towards their home, family, and friends.
What is the problem?
The family isn't always complete. Often, mothers have to raise children without a father. But the realities of the modern world are such that in whole families, men often take a minimal part in raising children. The reasons can be different: from banal disinterest to misunderstanding how to communicate with the child. The latter problem, by the way, may also be the result of a childhood without a father.
So what can be done to break this vicious circle?
What is the solution?
Vitalii Andriiets, a young man from Cherkasy, realized the problem almost five years ago. Then his eldest son was 6 years old.
"I often worried," recalls the Cherkasy resident, "how I had to pass on the experience of fatherhood to my boy because I didn't have a good example in his life; I had neither a father nor a grandfather. That's why I wasn't sure if I was communicating with him properly or if I was missing something important."
Sharing his thoughts with friends, Vitalii realized that they also have similar challenges; each of them grew up without a father. One of them, as the hero himself, had a situation that the father divorced his mother and disappeared from view forever; in another family, the father drank, in another one, he worked constantly. All of them in childhood lacked the figure of a father-mentor, whom you can rely on, ask for advice, learn from experience or skills.
Not to lose touch with their sons and to help other single-parent kids get a reliable shoulder in life, the friends decided to open a boys' workshop. There one can talk heart to heart and learn something useful. This is how the Wise Carpenter club appeared in Cherkasy. Here the guys, forgetting about gadgets, learn to work with their hands, learn various tools, learn moral principles.
How does it work?
The premises for classes were provided by the church visited by Vitalii, House of the Gospel. At first, they tried to make crafts from different materials, but later they chose carpentry. Jesus was a carpenter, in addition, as the founder of the workshop admits, he was interested in working with wood. This is a very grateful material for work, wood is good for hands, doesn't require complex tools or special education.
Wise Carpenter is a complete volunteer project. The tools were collected little by little. Raw materials and consumables are bought at the expense of philanthropists. The mentors in the workshop are ordinary men in their free time: IT specialists, civil servants, factory workers. "People with a passionate heart" is how Vitalii Andriiets describes his like-minded people.
Guys aged 6 to 15 are invited to the club. Classes are free for everyone. Here, boys are taught to make everything that may be needed in everyday life. Children take their products, shelves, chairs, stands, ladders, and even watches and easels, home.
But the mission of the Wise Carpenter is not just to teach children to hold a screwdriver or hammer properly. According to the initiators of the project, it is important for a man not only to be able to manage the household. Self-sufficiency, responsibility, and reliability are the values that boys are taught in the workshop alongside carpentry. Mentors instill in boys respect for women and their families, and they hope that if they ever become parents themselves, they will have a worthy example to follow.
Initially, the Wise Carpenter taught carpentry with boys and girls, but over time volunteers became short of resources. According to the founder of the project, it turned out that in joint groups children behave inattentively, and in individual girls' groups, there are simply not enough girls to form a class. So The Wise Carpenter focused on working with boys who don't have a father.
However, such a project is needed by both boys and girls. Perhaps Wise Carpenter will inspire those who care to create a new, broader format. Or, with development, the project itself will return to mixed groups.
Did they succeed?
Initially, the workshop cared for only those boys who grow up without parental upbringing, and later, at the request of citizens, began to work with all comers. Moreover, the experience of the Wise Carpenter began to be adopted in other towns and villages.
Currently, there are 10 workshops throughout Ukraine: in Kyiv, Cherkasy, Smila, Sumy, Bila Tserkva, and Kryvyi Rih. Each of them exists independently, but periodically the leaders meet and communicate in chats, helping each other. A year ago, an NGO of the same name was founded and now it is the activity of a public organization.
At the beginning of the project in 2017, only seven boys joined the first group. Now more than 170 boys study in the Wise Carpenter clubs across the country. Enrollment takes place in September. Vitalii Andriiets says that not everyone has time to register for training. In Cherkasy alone, 70 guys were enrolled this year! Unfortunately, there is a lack of teachers and the size of the premises. Many parents are standing in line.
"No matter how much everyone wants to," says Vitalii, who won the Euromaidan SOS 2019 volunteer award thanks to his project, "the children who visit our club don't change in a day or a month. We start hearing the first stories of parents about the changes about a year later. Parents say that the boys try to repair something at home on their own, love to go to the village with their grandfather to work there, start cleaning their room and take care of other family members. That is, they put into practice what we talk about with them at our meetings.
We hope that our workshops will at least partially help to overcome the problem of single-parenthood. We want the new generation of boys to grow up conscious and responsible towards their families, their hometown, and the entire country."
Even more useful solutions!
The goal of the Wise Carpenter is to be represented in at least 5 years in each regional city of Ukraine.
"For me, this is a mission," says Vitalii Andriiets. "This is an opportunity to change something in your city, country; opportunity to positively influence the guys. I see how young men need such spiritual workshops and how this activity activates adult men, their resources, and their desire to do something useful in their lives."
Recently, the founder of the project visited Switzerland. There he got acquainted with labor training in local schools, gained experience. According to him, the Swiss primarily teach lessons to think independently and critically, rather than just repeating certain actions of the mentor. A Swiss school sees a person ready for life after graduation: a 16-year-old graduate knows where and why they will continue to study, who they want to become, and what to create. That is, they don't educate performers, but people with engineering thinking.
Mr. Vitalii has a "colleague" overseas. In 2020, American Robert Kenny also realized one of his dreams and launched a YouTube channel "Dad, how do I?" It is a channel for those who grew up or grow up without a father. The presenter teaches video instructions where he teaches to shave, iron, tie a tie, fix the sewer, and change tires, and even cook pasta. In the videos, he tries to answer all the questions that a father is usually asked.
Robert also grew up without a dad. His parents' marriage broke up when he was still a child. The mother drank, and the father, when his son was 14, said he no longer wanted to bother with children. So Rob learned to be independent. And now he's teaching it to other boys. The channel has gained immense popularity, but YouTuber admits that it never intended to monetize its knowledge. He just didn't want to repeat his parents' mistakes and tried to raise his children, Kyle and Christian, happy. Now Kenny thinks he did it.