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RUSSIAN ORPHAN OPPORTUNITY FUND

Belskoye Ustye 2013 Summer Festival: A Community-Building Approach to Serving Orphans www.roofnet.org


Contents Festival 2013: The Start of a New Direction..........................................................................................3 The Vision........................................................................................................................................................3 The Practice.....................................................................................................................................................4 ROOF Festival 2013 in Detail...............................................................................................................5 Community Restoration and Beautification..................................................................................................5 Major Community Events...............................................................................................................................7 Weekly Workshops, Clubs and Themed Afternoon Teas................................................................................10 Work at the Baranovo Volunteer House & on its Territory...........................................................................13 The Future..............................................................................................................................................15 Special thanks toThe Adoption Programs of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota & Children’s Home Society of Minnesotaand to our various individual sponsors for funding the 2013 Belskoye Ustye Festival! Report text by Natalie Komrovsky and Georgia Williams. All photography in this report by volunteer photographer Katharina Tjart, unless otherwise specified. Thank you Katya!

Two Katyas: Photographer Katya Tjart with her friend Katya from the orphanage


Festival 2013: The Start of a New Direction The Vision This year’s ROOF summer camp initiated a new approach to ROOF’s mission of creating opportunities for the Belskoye Ustye orphanage children: focusing on the renewal and rebirth of the community surrounding them. One of ROOF’s main goals is to integrate orphaned children with the rest of society. This is a monumental task on its own, but is even more so when the local community remains deeply depressed. By revitalizing the community of Belskoye Ustye, ROOF is directly addressing three main organization goals: 1) To establish mentor relationships and integrate orphaned children with the rest of society; 2) To break down societal prejudice against orphans; 3) To rescue children from “psychoneurological” orphanages under the Ministry of Health and Social Development from transfer to adult institutions. By stimulating growth in the local community, we make it possible for the children of the Belskoye Ustye orphanage to find their place in society.

Photo by Milena Boclé

To the right (top to bottom):

The “Information” Bulletin Board we put up in the centre of Belskoye Ustye, where we posted a schedule of daily and weekly events for the duration of the festival and continuing into the month of September. (picture 1) Volunteers meeting with Fr. Victor, a local Russian Orthodox priest from Podoklinje, 30 km away, who is very supportive of our efforts and acts as a local guide and pastor. (picture 2) Canvassaing amongst local popluation: spreading the word about our events and workshops. We went out in groups that included volunteers, orphanage graduates and a few locals who were already getting involved and interested. (pictures 3 - 5).

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The Practice The 2013 festival began with isolated events in June, and ran steadily through July and August. The festival implemented ROOF’s new approach through four main avenues, which are depicted in a bit more detail in the subsequent pages of this report: Our friends from the orphanage Dusya, Vika and Sveta at summer 2013 events

1) Community restoration and beautification; 2) Major community events; 3) Weekly workshops/clubs and themed afternoon teas; and 4) Work at the Baranovo volunteer house and on its territory.

At its peak, 28 volunteers from 7 different countries lived and worked together; the various cultural backgrounds and talents of visiting volunteers and native residents created a rich experience based on sharing our own talents and enthusiasms with others.

Below left to right: The big church in Belskoye Ustye. Volunteers outside the Baranovo Volunteer House and in Belskoye Ustye. Ira and Oksana from the orphanage with Tim (our neighbours’ dog) in Baranovo.

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ROOF Festival 2013 in Detail Community restoration and beautification: more about Belskoye Ustye and Baranovo The Orphanage we serve is in Belskoye Ustye, a village with a population of around 200 (including the 70 orphanage children). Our volunteer house is in the tiny village of Baranovo, 1km from Belskoye Ustye. This summer volunteers worked to clean up and beautify the village of Belskoye Ustye. In addition to picking up trash wherever it lay, ROOF focused on three local landmarks: the large church, the cultural center, and the small chapel. The large church was abandoned in 1961. ROOF would love somehow to be involved in its restoration and in restoration of life to the parish. We are in discussion with the active members of the church council and the project’s main activist – a locally-born man who now lives in St. Petersburg – trying to figure out what the next steps are (there is currently no priest in the parish, which is the first hurdle). This summer volunteers maintained the grounds around the church and tended to the graves nearby. The cultural center (or Dom Kultury, in Russian) was a local recreation center that was abandoned after the fall of the Soviet Union. The inside of the Dom ROOF Volunteer (and orphanage graduate) Misha Kultury was covered in rubble, bottles, and trash. This summer, volunteers Ershov, mowing the lawn in front of the big church worked on cleaning out the inside of the two main rooms, with the hope of using the center for various events. While working, volunteers were often approached by members of the community, who were interested in the beautification work and often offered up stories about how the community used the space when the center was active. Volunteers were also surprised and excited to come back one morning and find that some of the local children had painted pictures on the walls inside the building. Beside he Dom Kultury is a field, which has been terribly overgrown and unusable for the 15 years that ROOF has worked in the orphanage. Volunteers cleaned and mowed the field, built a volleyball net, fire pit, and created a mural and art gallery on the side of the building to form a village green! The small chapel was used for afternoon teas and as a rain location for weekly workshops. At the beginning of the summer volunteers did a general clean-up before hosting events. 5


Community restoration and beautification, continued... Left and bottom middle inside building: cleaning rubbish out of the Dom Kultury Right: putting up the “Information” sign Bottom left: building a public sheltered seating place near the Dom Kultury

Photo by Milena Boclé

Left: Decorating the Dom Kultury with the children from the village Below and bottom middle outside church: Beautifying grave sites around

Photo by Milena Boclé

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Major Community Events Over the summer, ROOF held five major community-wide events. All activities (except the hike) were held outside of the newlycleaned Cultural Center in the center of Belskoye Ustye. The Opening Festival The purpose of the Opening Festival was to introduce ourselves – and the idea of integrating orphanage and non-orphanage population(!) – in the context of a fun event that both adults and children could enjoy. The festival was a true testament to what a group can assemble when they work together.

babaganoush. In addition, many of our volunteers this year were talented artists. In preparation for the festival, volunteers designed and painted a mural on the wall of the Cultural Center. During the festival, community members and kids from the orphanage painted green handprints on the wall. The handprints are the leaves on a willow tree. Over 200 people attended the event. We also solicited feedback from community members on workshops they would be interested in attending, or any other community event they would be excited about. The event was very well received and members of the community were excited about the prospect of increased community activity.

The festival included volleyball (court and net built by the volunteers prior to the festival), Frisbee, jump rope, hula The Nature Hike was organized so that the chilhoops, an obstacle course, a chess tournament, dren in the village could enjoy a morning walk face painting, and headdress-making from local along the river. The hike would include a stop flowers (an activity traditionally done during the at a farm about 5km away, where the children celebration “Ivan Kupala”/St. John’s Day). Other could ride horses. It would end at the beach, major highlights included a play written, per4 Photos by Milena Boclé where everyone would picnic together. Despite formed, and set-designed by volunteers (including a choreographed dance at the end!), a magic show, and samples the best of intentions, the hike didn’t go as planned. Our intrepid of international cuisine. In the days leading up to the event, volexplorers were caught in a torrential downpour on the other side unteers prepared some of their favorite dishes from their home of the river, necessitating a rescue operation that included forging countries. Samples provided at the festival include hummus, Greek the rapidly expanding river! When we were all safely home, we salad, jambalaya, frozen chocolate cake, shortbread, tiramisu, and gathered the children into the activity room and warmed them up 7


with dry clothes and wool blankets as a team in the kitchen boiled water for hot tea served with raspberry jam and assembled simple sandwiches and snacks. The children enjoyed two full-length cartoon movies and lunch while their clothes dried. Though many of the volunteers and children were cold, wet, and miserable for a little while, we all quickly began to realize that this sort of adventure becomes a highlight when remembered years later!

Photo by Georgia Williams

Photo by Georgia Williams

Tea made from local fresh plants: strawberry, wild strawberry, mountain cranberry, blueberry, rose hips and petals, red clover and willow herb.

The Fashion Show and Art Gallery gave the children of the village and orphanage an opportunity to create and display works of art. In the week leading up to the show, the children decorated masks, crowns, and capes (or skirts) using paint, markers, and leaves or flowers from the surrounding area. They also drew and painted pictures along the theme of “My Ideal Town.� After the Fashion Show there was a dance party. 8


Bagpipe workshop On August 12-13th, ROOF hosted a professional bagpiper from Utah, who hosted an afternoon and morning bagpipe workshop for the members of the community. The workshop included a lesson about how the bagpipes work, a small concert, and an opportunity to play practice instruments. As luck would have it, one of our summer festival volunteers turned out to be very well trained in Scottish and Irish dancing, so we had a demonstration of different types of dances/songs and their meanings and purposes. Ellen was really quite a pro at the dancing, and she convinced some of the rest of us to have a go, too. William generously donated 8 practice instruments which are small and without bags, so that ROOF could continue holding workshops for those interested in learning to play! Artists’ Visit In June, four professional painters came from Moscow to host a 4-day community event we called “Beauty from Nothing”, the goal of which was to encourage use of mundane household objects for the creation of beauty in our everyday lives. After we collected glass bottles from the ground in and around the village, the artists held several workshops with local and orphanage children where they helped us use various techniques to paint and decorate the bottles into beautiful vases and candle holders, which can now be found in different homes and public places – beautifying Belskoye Ustye!

Photo by Georgia Forth

Photo by Georgia Forth

Photo by Georgia Williams

Photo by Georgia Forth

Photo by Georgia Williams

Photo by Georgia Williams

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Weekly Workshops, Clubs and Themed Afternoon Teas ROOF hosted weekly workshops and clubs five days per week for the members of Belskoye Ustye and the surrounding community. Once per week there were workshops in performing arts, visual arts, soccer, and volleyball. We also held dance parties and bonfires on a weekly basis. One of the most exciting things about our weekly routine, was that certain local residents soon produced their own additions to the schedule. Volleyball with the orphanage staff, weaving from twigs and reeds, bee keeping (!), and knitting where all offered as part of our weekly schedule but organized by members of the local community!! Themed afternoon teas included film club, candle making and the knitting circle, as well as other one-off events. Below: Bee Keeping with Nikolai Borisovich, bonfire (top left) and Chess (bottom middle).

Photo by Milena BoclĂŠ

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Weekly Workshops, Clubs and Themed Afternoon Teas, continued...

Above: Left top and bottom: visual arts club with Elly and Mateo. Middle top: teather ball in the village green. Top right: Oksana’s workshop weaving from twigs and reeds. Bottom middle: film club. Bottom right: English language club. 11


Weekly Workshops, Clubs and Themed Afternoon Teas, continued...

Above: Volleyball on the village green, and Soccer and Table Tennis hosted at the Baranovo Volunteer House. Fairly self-explanatory :)

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Work at the Baranovo volunteer house and on its territory Being a net producer/contributor in the community begins at home. In past years, our summer camp volunteers have been treated to service “at home base” which means they have needed to do little more than arrive from working with the orphanage children, eat. drink and be merry. While this had its advantages, we did things differently in 2013. For the busiest month we did have a hired cook – but for the rest of the time we fended for ourselves, even in the kitchen. During the month of August one of the local teenagers (Masha) – who is studying to be a cook – came by to help each day as a sort of apprenticeship.

Photo by Georgia Williams

Over the summer, we made use of Photo by Georgia Williams our various talents to start growing a lot of our own vegetables, to put in a new water system in the house, and to contribute to various build- Above: Top right and bottom left: taking apart the old stove in the banya (bath house) ing and repair works on site. Orphanage graduates and volunteers so that a new stove and floor can be put in. worked together on these projects and the result was a real levelling that causes us to forget that some of us grew up in orphanages Top left: working in the garden (cabbages!). and others didn’t. It is early days still, but it seems that we are really Bottom right: working on the new water system for the house. becoming a small community like never before, and we hope this means exciting things for the future. 13


Work in Baranovo, continued...

Top left: Composting. Bottom left: working in the garden (here there are cabbages, carrots, potatoes and beets). Top and bottom right: measuring and digging the foundation of a house for Stas (in grey). Stas is a graduate of Belskoye Ustye and the long-term caretaker of our volunteer house. Stas’s very own house will be completed (we hope!) before winter 2013. 14


The Future Now it is autumn, and our little community continues to thrive in Baranovo, albeit in a quieter way. For September – December we will always have 6 to 12 people living in Baranovo, including volunteers, orphanage graduates and ROOF staff. In fact, ROOF has recently moved its main office from Moscow to Baranovo, as 90% of ROOF’s current programs are focused on Belskoye Ustye Orphanage and its graduates, and on developing our work in the Pskov Region. Our conclusion: we have to live in the community we want to serve in. What other way is there? When summer 2014 rolls around, we Photo by Milena Boclé should have confidence in planning the summer festival that we simply could not have had the first time around. Next year we would like to invite more guests with different and interesting talents, and perhaps include a conference element, focusing on issues in the development of domestic adoption in Russia. But before then we have to live through the a long, cold winter in the Russian wilderness. Our main challenges for the coming year before next summer will be finishing work on Stas’s house (see Work in Baranovo section), establishing a rhythm of life that involves outreach to the orphanage and community during the cold months, and hopefully starting a small business to help finance community activities.

Photo by Georgia Williams

Our business, we believe, is going to be baking fresh bread. One of our small summer acheievements was starting and incubating our very own Baranovo sourdough starter and baking fresh, homemade bread on a stone in our little oven. With a larger stone oven we could bake a product that is different and higher quality than anything available on the local market. 15


ROOF 2013 summer festival report