Marina Yefimova: There Are No Problem Children, but There Can Be Difficult Circumstances

26 april 2021

Life Without Borders, a charity, has been supporting children and youths from socially disadvantaged groups in Nizhny Novgorod and Nizhegorodskaya Oblast. The foundation’s projects help children unlock their hidden talents and adapt to living in a modern society.

The fourth issue of the Formula for Good Deeds’ charity-themed digest featured an interview with Marina Yefimova, President of the Life without Borders Foundation and an ambassador of the Formula for Good Deeds program in Nizhegorodskaya Oblast, where she is discussing their ongoing projects, the opening of the #HooliganHouse, and sharing tips on how to help children struggling with difficult circumstances in their lives.

Marina, how long have you been helping children? Why did you choose to help children in difficult circumstances?

I've been helping children for over 14 years now. Initially, I had had nothing to do whatsoever with charity or volunteering. But one day I felt the urge to try and see what I’d be like as a volunteer so that I could be of help to those in need. And so, I started helping organizations set up for helping children with special needs. After having tried my hand at different kinds of volunteering work and helping different children, I arrived at the conclusion that I felt the deepest sympathy for the children who have to live without parents, those kids who are orphanages’ residents. It was then that I decided to make assistance to children my profession and founded my own charitable foundation.

Please tell us more about your foundation, about what it is that you do there

Our Foundation, Life Without Borders, was founded in 2012 as a vehicle for helping and supporting people left in the care of the state. Since that time, my team and I have implemented 14 programs involving more than 2,500 children and teenagers from Nizhny Novgorod and Nizhegorodskaya Oblast experiencing distress or difficult circumstances.

We value and believe in every child. We believe that there are no problem children, but that there can be difficult circumstances and situations in life. We help children who need support and care. We teach our wards that there is always a way out of any situation, and that they are not alone. We teach children to love life. We teach them to have an active mindset and a positive outlook on life. We help children fall in love with sports. But most importantly, we help them believe in themselves!

What kind of help does the foundation provide to children?

One of our foundation's key areas of focus is finding and matching personal mentors to our children and teenagers. We do this as part of our large-scale program we called Mentors Without Borders. We are helping our mentees to gain the skills that they would then be able to use in their independent adult lives.

Another important area of our focus is career guidance for residents of orphanages and boarding schools, as well as for teenagers who are otherwise socially disadvantaged. We have been helping teens and young adults to find their calling and land their first job.

On top of that, we are engaged in conducting developmental activities meant to provide psychological support, help with children’s socialization, and to improve the overall level of cultural and physical development of our wards, in addition to implementing training programs for employees of orphanages meant to improve their professional competence.

In February, you opened your very first #HooliganHouse in Nizhny Novgorod. Can you please tell us a little bit more about it?

Yes, we opened our Mentoring Center for Teenagers dubbed the #HooliganHouse. It was established as a platform for training would-be mentors and experts from non-profit organizations, orphanages, and boarding schools, and as support for current mentors. At our Center, we have been implementing various programs for our mentees and people in their inner circle: their parents, teachers, caregivers, and mentors. The #HooliganHouse has thus become something like a club for parents. We intend to replicate all of our mentoring experience in other communities of the Volga Federal District.

How can one help your foundation and the HooliganHouse?

It's very easy. Together, we can support and help children remotely or working right next to them. One can support our foundation by sending us a one-time or recurrent monthly donations, or by becoming a mentor or helping us with putting on charitable functions. We invite SIBUR’s employees from other cities to undergo internships at our Mentoring Center for Teenagers or to take our online classes in cooking or career guidance. Another way of helping would be for your colleagues to help conduct a virtual tour of their city for our wards.

Would you please give us more details about these internships: what are they about and what does one have to do to take part in one?

We invite representatives of non-profit organization, commercial businesses and private individuals to take part in our internships so that they can learn about our experience with implementing our Foundation’s programs. Once we have received a request for an internship, we put together an internship program. It could be, for example, about how to set up an interregional inclusive festival from scratch: where to get the money, participants, how involve volunteers, how to resolve difficult issues. I think that volunteers, for one, would be particularly interested in learning how to develop a project at the lowest possible cost. We would then pass on our techniques to the interns and issue them with certificates of completion. We will be happy if our experience is found to be useful by our colleagues from other regions. The duration of an internships is from one to three days.


How can one become a volunteer or a mentor at the Foundation?

Very easily! To become a volunteer, one needs to fill out a questionnaire on our website. After getting a call from one of our staff members, they would then attend a special first meeting and a mandatory psychology-of-orphanhood class that will be delivered by our psychologists. Before taking our volunteer on a trip to an orphanage, we will conduct a briefing on how to behave while there.

And as to becoming a mentor, one would, first of all, have to file an application at this link. After talking to one of our employees, they would proceed to gathering the required paperwork and attend an interview with a program coordinator. One would also need to take a training course for aspiring mentors, after which they will finally be able to meet with their mentees and start a story of friendship! This preliminary training helps the mentors to better understand younger people and to support them properly. Both volunteers and mentors who are willing to assist our foundation in any each way they can are always very welcome here!

To learn more about all of the Foundation's charitable programs, proceed to its official website at