ROOF SUMMER CAMP 2006 26 June to 23 July 2006
Belskoye Ustye Psycho-neurological orphanage Pskov region, Russia
ROOF RUSSIAN ORPHAN OPPORTUNITY FUND Voznessensky per, 8 Moscow Russia Tel: 629 5100
Contact: Laure Trebosc
I. PRESENTATION OF ROOF SUMMER CAMP
SUMMER CAMP TEAM
BELSKOYE USTYE ORPHANAGE INTERNAT FOR MENTALLY DISABLED CHILDREN
SUMMER CAMP OBJECTIVES
II. DESCRIPTION OF SUMMER CAMP 2006
2006 SUMMER CAMP TEAM
THE OPENING OF CAMP
LIFE IN BARANOVO
III. VOLUNTEERS’ FIRST IMPRESSIONS
PRESENTATION OF ROOF SUMMER CAMP CAMP TEAM
ADMINISTRATION Director: Tatiana Albertovna Grishuk (Porkhov) Foreign Head Counselor: Laure Trebosc (France) Russian Head Counselor: Lisa Milaeva (Moscow) Cook: Nadezhda Lebedeva (Pskov) Handyman: Mr. Alexander Nikolaevich Kozlov (Porkhov) Handyman assistant: Stanislav Kuznetsov (Belskoye Ustye orphanage graduate) VOLUNTEERS Russian Volunteers: Moscow team: Alina Lobzina, Alexander Amirzanyan, Natalia Pirogova, Irina Litvina, Veronika Ratomskaya, Sergei Pirozhenko, Julia Kurchanova, Vera Skripkina, Vera Vdovina, Sergei Raslikov Pskov team: Julia Gavrilova, Liubov Fedotova, Kolya Kapustin, Stas Grishuk Foreign Volunteers: England team: David Hunter, Matthew Neve, Storm Norman, Elizabeth Crofts, Charlotte Young, Olivia Faith. France Team: Isabelle Boittin, Irene Ketoff
BELSKOYE USTYE ORPHANAGE INTERNAT FOR MENTALLY DISABLED CHILDREN Belskoye Ustye state orphanage Number of children: 105 Age of children: 7-18 years Diagnosis: light and medium mental deficiency or physically disabled children or children with a “deviant” behaviour. Location: North Western Russia, Pskov Region, 18 km from small town of Porkhov, Village of Belskoye Ustye. Category: Neuro-psychological orphanage Responsible Body: Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.
Disabled children in Russia suffer not only from a lack of access to education and inadequate medical treatment. They are also often institutionalised for life. In orphanages children lack emotional, intellectual and social stimulation. When at the age of 18 children leave orphanages for the disabled they lack the skills to live independently, and are thus sent to adult institutions where they spend the rest of their lives. This is all the more disturbing, considering that many children living in neuro-psychological orphanages are, in reality, not at all disabled.
The Belskoye Ustye orphanage internat for mentally disabled children houses 105 children aged 718 diagnosed with “oligophrenia”, a term used in Russia for mental disability. Although the internat is meant for children with medium light to medium mental deficiencies, it also cares for children with physical disabilities, children with learning difficulties, or children with behavioural problems. At the orphanage, the children lack intellectual, emotional and sensory stimulation, as well as social interaction. For these reasons, and despite professional and caring staff, children in residential care, such as the Belskoye Ustye internat, automatically fall behind the developmental level of their peers. They develop negative self images, lack emotional control, and are incapable of “normal” social interaction as they live in a closed environment. In most cases, these shortcomings are not linked to their disability, but are merely a consequence of their institutionalisation. When they turn 18, the children of Belskoye Ustye are sent to adult psycho-neurological internats, where their mental condition degrades very quickly, and where they remain for the rest of their lives. In Russia, the life expectancy of children sent from orphanages to these adult institutions is frighteningly low.
SUMMER CAMP OBJECTIVES The main goal of ROOF summer camp is to help break the cycle of institutionalisation by contributing to the education and socialisation of the children of the Belskoye Ustye orphanage. Specific goals of the summer camp:
to teach the children academic knowledge using interactive, playful methods;
to develop the children’s artistic, creative capacities;
to widen the children’s horizons;
to give the children the opportunity to interact with young role models;
to improve the children’s self-confidence;
to teach the orphanage carers new teaching methods;
to improve the attitude of the local population towards the children;
to create a network of assistance for the orphanage.
DESCRIPTION OF SUMMER CAMP 2006
In 2006, ROOF’s 7th annual summer camp took place at the Belskoye Ustye orphanage, Pskov region, from 27th of June to 23rd of July. THE 2006 TEAM Over 20 volunteers from six different countries took part: Russia, England, France, Italy, USA, Israel. The average age of the volunteers was 22 years old. Most volunteers were students, although some volunteers who have been returning to camp for many years already work and devote their summer holiday to the children of Belskoye Ustye. Foreign volunteers pay for their visa and flight to Russia. With the exception of one person, all volunteers spoke Russian. -
The British students were in majority from Oxford University and one was from Durham University. The French students were from ASSAS Law University, Paris, and Grinnell College (USA). Moscow students were from the Russian State Humanitarian University (RGGU) Pskov students were from the Pskov State Pedagogical University. Two volunteers were from the small town of Porkhov, near the orphanage.
PREPARATION The three day preparation of camp included morning seminars introducing the orphanage system in Russia, methodology to work with disabled children, and meetings with orphanage psychologist and carers. It also included team building activities such as: quizzes, three legged races, obstacle courses etc… THE OPENING OF CAMP This year work with the children officially began later than usual, on 5th of July. This delay was due to: -
The accidental death by drowning of an older boy of the orphanage before the beginning of camp. Registration problems with foreign passports. Every year, the local registration authorities find a reason to demand a fine from foreign volunteers. This year registration problems lead to a very unpleasant situation whereby for 2/3 days only Russian volunteers were allowed to work with the children. Foreign volunteers remained in Baranovo at camp. Even with active support from the orphanage director, foreign volunteers were forced to pay a fine at the local police station, despite having registered in Moscow.
LIFE IN BARANOVO For the past two years, summer camp volunteers have lived in the village of Baranovo. (Previously they lived in the village of Kholomki.), two kilometres from the orphanage of Belskoye Ustye. Every day volunteers walk back and forth to the orphanage twice. Most volunteers sleep on mattresses inside the house while others camp outside. The living conditions are, to say the least, not luxurious: the toilets are outside, there is no bath or shower, only a little wooden banya used twice a week. Volunteers wash in the nearby Belka river. There is no running water and there are often electricity cuts.
The summer camp daily schedule was the following: Volunteers worked in pairs (with the exception of two groups which necessitated the presence of 3 volunteers). The volunteers worked with two different groups of children during camp. They saw each group twice a day, before and after lunch. In the morning the volunteers taught two 1:30 hour lessons and in the afternoon two 1 hour lessons. In total, volunteers worked 5 hours per day with the children and spent on average 3-4 hours per day planning lessons back at camp and spent the same amount of time preparing camp theme days and festivals.
8:30 8:45 9:15 9:45
DAILY SCHEDULE wake up breakfast walk to the orphanage arrive at the orphanage
10:00 gathering outside the orphanage 10:00 – 11:30 lesson with group A 11:45- 13:15 lesson with group B 14:00 lunch in Baranovo 14:30 – 16:00 lesson planning 16:00 walk to the orphanage 16:30- 17:30 lesson with group A 17:45- 18:45 lesson with group B 20:00 dinner 20:30 onwards: lesson planning
LESSONS This year, lessons at camp were less academic than in previous years because since September 2006 the children have been taking regular lessons in the framework of Project Baranovo. (for more information: www.roofnet.org/baranovo) Indoor activities taught during the summer camp included: reading, fun maths, learning letters of the alphabet through games, collages, painting, mask & costume making, doll making, play do, theatre, singing, dancing, learning body parts, food tasting, making musical instruments, jewellery making, beading, origami…
Outdoor activities included: treasure hunts, orientation walks in the forest, berry picking, football, volleyball, twister, various ball games, relay races, bowling…
Volunteers worked 6 days a week. Sunday was their only day off. The second to last Sunday of camp, an excursion by minibus was organised for half of the volunteers to the nearby cultural and historical monuments. THE “LINEIKA” During camp the children of the orphanage were divided into 9 unisex groups according to their level of development and education. At the beginning of camp, each group decided on a name and song to represent them for the duration of camp. The children chose their group name alone or with help from their counsellors. They came up with original names such as: “Funny guys”, “X-Men”, “Roses”, “SpetsNaz”, “Titanic”, “Hedgehogs”, “Little bears”, “Cosmonauts”, and “the Sunshine girls”. Every morning, at 10:00 the children met their counsellors (the volunteers) at the “lineika”, a gathering outside the orphanage. Each group presented itself and sang its song. Then the orphanage and camp administration gave out prizes for participation in the previous day’s fun activities and announced activities of the coming day.
Group 5: Titanic
Group 7: Hedgehogs
FESTIVALS This year there was a very large number of theme days: circus day, music day, day of horrors, sports day, and international day. In the morning the children learnt about the festival theme and prepared performances, costumes, handicrafts or games for the afternoon fun. In the afternoon the children showed off their new skills and knowledge in front of the entire orphanage, and took part in various games, competitions and activities organised for all the children.
Circus Day, a human pyramid; International Day, the Venice Carnival; Day of Horrors, devils
SPECIAL EVENTS There were also special events such as: a giant treasure hunt, two discos, an exhibition of the children’s work, and a concert by the children. THE VILLAGE FESTIVAL One of the goals of the summer camp is to improve the attitude of the villagers towards the children of the orphanage. This year the villagers and the volunteers produced a show for the villagers and the children of the orphanage! The girls choreographed a traditional Russian dance, and then all volunteers performed ballroom dancing.
The treasure hunt, disco and village festival EXHIBITION & CONCERT Towards the end of camp, volunteers gather children’s work for a grand exhibition. The sports hall is covered in colourful drawings, cut outs, paintings, posters, hand made objects, jewellery, decorations etc… The children’s concert is an event that volunteers are invited to as spectators. The orphanage music teacher Alexei Viktorevich and choreographer, Nadezhda Georgievna, rehearse with the children all year long. They perform their show at the orphanage and tour the Porkhov area.
CLOSING CAMP… Traditionally, camp ends with a play performed by volunteers. This year to close camp, volunteers chose to put up a “special version” of the Beauty and the Beast: a cross between the Disney version, and the Russian fairytale, “Alenka’s flower”.
VOLUNTEERS’ FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Below are some first impressions of volunteers, Russian and foreign, when they arrived at the orphanage. Opinions vary on the material conditions of the orphanage, but all agree that the children are truly adorable and not all disabled… Charlotte, England: “On first arriving, I remember one of the boys shrieking “Moskvichi” with such excitement, as if he had been waiting the whole year for our arrival. As we assembled near the workshop and the children arrived, I remember seeing more disabled children than I had imagined. Some had minor disabilities and others had visible mental problems. However, the children’s mood was, from the onset, and until the end always happy and fun loving. The building of the orphanage was – as I had expected – drab and lacking in maintenance. The bars inside keeping various groups within specific areas look sinister, but I realise they are for the children’s well-being and prevent the older orphans from troubling the younger ones. Bullying in the orphanage is less obvious than I imagined and in fact it seems that children stick up for one another an awful lot more than in a school for example. On first arriving, I was intrigued by the carers. On working with them, I feel that they care for the children an awful lot and make the most of their situation: of their lack of curriculum, of materials etc… The level of education within the orphanage was much worse than I had expected, especially within group 8. One of the boys has enormous speech difficulties. Their level of concentration was also much lower than I had anticipated and this meant that a lot of the ideas and academic learning exercises that we had in mind had to be re-thought and simplified significantly.” Natasha, Moscow: “During our first meeting with the children it seemed that they were completely normal children who lacked any symptoms of mental disability. They were very friendly, socially active and curious. It seemed that it would be very easy to work with them because they showed interest in meeting new people and were eager to communicate and discover new things. The children constantly tried to touch us. You could tell that they lack physical contact. I was surprised by their lack of aggressiveness, or more exactly by a lower level of aggressiveness than I had expected. In my group it was immediately obvious that the children have very different levels of development. Some look like absolutely normal teenagers, and with others you can instantly tell that they are disabled. Nevertheless, the children have good relations amongst each other. In general, I would say that my first impression was much better than what I had expected.” Olivia, England (lives in Moscow): “I was at camp last year and it was lovely to see how many of the children recognised me and even remembered my name. I think that it gives them a sense of continuity and makes them feel valued to a greater degree to see volunteers return. I have often heard them say about volunteers: “He was here last year.” “I don’t know her, she wasn’t here last year.” The other thing that really stands out for me is the wide range of abilities and ages in the groups. In particular in the Miloserdie groups where there are extremely able children who are there purely because of age (very young) or physical disability. These children clearly lack stimulation, education and even anything to do. They sit around all day- obviously not what they need.”
Nika, Moscow: “My fears turned out to be unfounded. Yes, the children are disabled, and some are seriously disabled. But they are much less superficial than most “healthy” people. They have a unique sensibility. They may scream, fight, or cut their veins, but they can also feel when you are hurt, and come to help you, exactly when you needed attention. When I worked with them I could not smell their dirty clothes, and could not see their skin diseases. All I felt was their warmth and their desire to love. I realised that I am not any different from them. I ran in the mud with them, I jumped into the fountain with them. I did everything that they did. I tried to show them that life could be fun. They love and they share their love. Many don’t know how to share their feelings, because nobody ever taught them how to. But their love is tangible. A volunteer’s role is to perceive this kindness and tenderness and accept it.”
Seven years after its introduction in 2000, ROOF summer camp remains the only opportunity for the children of Belskoye Ustye to interact with the outside world to such a large extent. Not only do volunteers come from all over the world, but also they stay and work with the children for an entire month. The commitment of many volunteers who keep coming back- year after year after year is a testimony to the summer camp’s worth. It shows how attached children and volunteers become during the summer camp and incidentally how much the children still lack individual attention, stimulation and role models. Over the years, the summer camp has proven that: -
The children are not uneducable, and on the contrary capable of learning; Some children are talented artists, singers and craftsmen! The children are capable of socialising if given individual attention and taught basic rules of conduct; Increased stimulation and interaction with the outside world is beneficial to the children’s overall development; Relationships with young role models increase the children’s desire to build their future outside an institution and therefore increase their chances of successful adaptation.
The summer camp is an essential component of ROOF’s programmes at Belskoye Ustye. Added together, the summer camp, the educational programmes during the school year and the “abilitation centre” for orphanage graduates, provide the children of Belskoye Ustye with comprehensive support for their rehabilitation.
English language report on ROOF's 2006 summer camp