Peeteli church and the social center
The project Elagu Elu has in a way joined an already existing project for urchins in Tallinn, founded by a church. The Estonian evangelic lutheran Peeteli congregation is the smallest protestant church in Tallinn. The congragation was founded in 1927. Since 1962, during the time of the Soviet occupation, the church was used as a cinema. The sanctuary was pulled down and the windows were bricked up. In 1993, the church building was given back to the congregation and since February 1st in 1996, Avo Üprus is it's pastor. He brought with him the vision of a clergy as a social church.
Since this time, the congregation's main concern is the support of urchins in Kopli, a district in the nothwest of Tallinn. The working-class estates, which were built there in the beginning of the 20th century are quite shabby today and pulled down one after the other. These houses, which usualy aren't connected to electricity or canalization and have got neither gas nor water supply, are inhabited by families and unemployeds (of mostly Russian background), who have lost their living space for some reason. Furthermore, groups of children and adolescents of every age are living there.
In the beinning, Peeteli church helped them through visits and donations consisting of food and clothing. That's how the children started to trust their helpers. But for providing them a real perspective it was necessary to bring them out of their criminal, violent and hostile surrounding. Therefor, the rectory was renovated and converted into a day-care center together with the kids in 1997. Two years later, the day-care center was made the children's home with 14 beds. Some children, who are still living there today, are counted among the first urchins whom the helpers developed contact to. They learned to get on with the life inside the shelter. Thus they had to accept the most important rules, above all: all children must go to school. Moreover, some of them had to fight against their drug addiction.
The children have to come to their own, inner decision to stay in the shelter. They grow up within a protected surrounding and learn Estonian bit by bit through the contact with their carers and regular school attendance. Yet the want of looking after was higher than the children's home was able to supply. For that reason, the Peeteli social center was founded on January 1st in 2000 as a non-governmental organization for being able to create more and better supportive facilities. It was planned to develop a day-care center and a night shelter. Members of the congregation had begun to renovate and extend the church's cellar together with the children already in 1999. The money, which rendered these renovations possible, came from germany (350.000 EEK, today approx. 22.370 €, a very high amount at that time). On April 1st in 2001, the day-care center and the night shelter (12 beds) were ceremonially opened. The latter functions as a temporary lodging for children in urgent states of emergency. In the day-care center, the children are given the possiblity to play and talk, they get meals, food-packages and clothing, can take a shower and obtain further support. Like many of the children's home's inhabitants, numerous children from the day-care center stay there for a long time as well, because it's very difficult to place them with foster families. These children have to regulary attend school, too.
Peeteli congregation is glad to be able to offer living space to many children and adolescents. Nevertheless, there still are many kids for whom the provided space doesn't suffice; moreover, the elder inhabitants somewhen come to an age, where they have to become independent and need different kinds of housing and support. Thus, the congregation decided to put up a new building with 40 children's home beds, 12 youth center beds and several training workshops on the terrain behind the church. Unfortunately, this plan was stopped by the surrounding neighborhood, having problems with accepting the urchins in there vincity. At the moment, an alternative solution is being searched.