These days we celebrate a success of one of our most devoted students. This spring, Maxim graduated with bachelor degree from the Russian State University of Physical Education (Scolipe). He got a qualification of trainer in athletics and a certificate allowing him to judge international tournaments in athletics.
It was a long way to this diploma. Maxim joined Step Up Education Centre about ten years ago (in fact, nobody remembers exactly when it happened as it seems that he has been around all the time). He got a degree for secondary and high school and entered the university. Maxim was not an easy student for our teachers and studying was not easy for him either. His major learning difficulties originated in his hyperactivity. But he managed to turn his weakness into advantage through his passion for sports and a habit for hard labor during training sessions.
For a long time Maxim combined studies with part-time work as a waiter and barista in coffee shops. Two years ago, he started a new career of physical education teacher in secondary school.
Maxim did not break ties with Step Up upon entering the university. He continued to visit individual tutorials, which we organize to first and second year university students. More importantly, he became an active volunteer going every summer to Step Up’s camp in the orphanage in Pskov region. He is a member of our legendary football team.
The last, but not least, Maxim is the one who ran the Moscow marathon! Two times by now! He is outstanding!
Congratulations on this wonderful achievement, Maxim! The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change. You have walked a long way toward this goal but you have successfully managed. We tried to help you but you really did most of this great thing yourself. We are proud of you! Best wishes for you on your graduation from university!
On October 21st Step Up held a roundtable discussion for prospective employers interested in hiring orphanage graduates.
We invited representatives from medium and large companies to discuss the influence of work placements on young people’s personal development and the role companies can play in the life of orphanage graduates.
Step Up is looking not only to help young people find a job, adapt to a new environment, and be ready to face the new challenges, but is also ready to help employers.
Step Up’s work placement programme consultants, Ekaterina Belyakova and Aleksei Kurbatov, told participants about the assistance we are ready to offer:
— Motivational seminars for employees;
— Coaching sessions for managers (face-to-face or via Skype);
— Urgent advice (in case of conflict situations).
Two of our students — Mikhail and Andrei — also took part. They told participants about their journey from Year Nine of correctional school to university, and then how they found the jobs they love.
As a part of the work placement programme, Step Up has started a communication skills course that is aimed at solving the speech problems that many young people have – and that often become a reason for unsuccessful work placements.
Many thanks to Merrill Lynch for supporting the work placement programme and helping us organise the roundtable. We are also grateful to the company representatives who took part in the event.
More news can be found in our recent newsletter (the link is below).
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
In this letter I would like to tell you about another project ran by Step Up. It is a Summer Camp in Belskoye Ustye Orphanage in Pskov Region (about 700 km to the north-west from Moscow).
Belskoye Ustye Orphanage is one of Russia's psychoneurological institutions for children with serious mental and physical disabilities. The orphanage is located in a small village (20 km away from the nearest town of Porkhov) and children are largely deprived of socialising with the outside world. They interact almost exclusively with their carers, doctors and other orphanage staff. There very few people living in the localities around Belskoye Ustye.
Each year Summer Camp brings about 20 volunteers to make summer holidays for these children who do not leave the orphanage even in summer. Volunteers live in a rented house and tents nearby and organize games, performances and various developmental activities for chilren from the orphanage. This year the camp lasted for 3 weeks in July.
This year summer camp was focussed on the topic of occupations. Children learned about different occupations and tried themselves as doctors, actors, firemen, sportsmen, farmers, etc. Volunteers succeded in bringing children to a real fire station in Porkhov. Children got a chance to put on fire-protective clothing, climb fire ladders, sit in a fire-engine and touch other fire appliances.
Dasha Alexeeva, our development manager, asked volunteers to share their impressions about the camp. Here is a short interview with Inna Kulagina. It was taken when volunteers were still in the orphanage.
- How did you learn about the camp?
- I work for Sportmaster (large Russian sports clothes and equipment retail company). I got a message via internal company mail that Moscow-based charity called StepUp needs volunteers for the summer camp in Pskov region. I am a very impulsive and emotional person, and I immediately wrote to Howard (the director of the camp) that I would like to go. I work as an HR manager. I had some experience with special-needs orphanages before. Together with other volunteers from the company, I made several trips to such orphanages to make performances, talk and play with children, and greet them with the holidays. However, these contacts were very hasty and shallow.
- What were your expectations about the camp?
- My relatives worried very much and asked me if I was ready to change diapers and do other things that I had never done before. In fact, we do not have to do this during the camp, as special social workers are all the time with us. We only organize different activities for children. Nevertheless, I could not imagine that things would be so active - every minute with children is full with something new.
- Please, tell me about your group.
- I "got" the girls of the secondary school age. Five of them can be involved in all activities; two girls are in wheelchairs. There are also three other girls who hardly can participate in general classroom. So three volunteers are necessary to deal with them. One of these girls is Tanya; she is very small, she does not speak and always asks to pick her up to the arms.
- What are you doing with your group?
- Basically, we do various thing with hands: we draw, make origami and different crafts from cereals. In recent days, we made a wall newspaper. Sometimes we go outside and play ball, but it they are not very good in such games.
- Did you set a personal goal of some sort? Something that would explain why you spend three weeks here?
- Our stay here is definitely better than nothing. For myself, it is very important that I am here. For the kids, it is new experience, new friends, even just new faces.
This short video was prepared and directed by Inna. It is well-known story of Dr.Doolittle.
On February 12th Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter, paid a visit to St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow and came to our Centre.
Since she was young Princess Anne has been a keen horse rider and even participated in the Olympic Games. She is now the president of Save the Children.
Princess Anne attended some classes at our Centre, asked students about their favourite sports, their life and interests. Our students, in turn, tried to speak English with her and when she was about to leave gave her a bird box created by our HandsOn workshop.
We were delighted to meet Princess Anne!
At my first visit to Step up organization I found myself as a part of the biggest event - the graduating day. I saw elegant young people running here and there and all they were very thrilled, teachers were making hairs, setting the tables...
I saw several small rooms where students - young orphans from special orphanages for children with special needs, studying and learning. Step up organization is one of the several organizations in Moscow where orphans can get proper education and pass their exams to get certificate. It is the first document everyone should have so they can apply for a job or continue studying at the University. Its the first official document that means that you have graduated school. Not all orphans has opportunity to pass exams and get certificate while studying at the orphanages, because some of them needs very slow and careful approach that meets all their needs. I saw rooms, full of school books, old computers, blackboard. I imagine how difficult it must be to study at school when you are about 18-19 and supposed to go to the university or work. How many efforts do they all make to fill the gaps in education. All lessons are for free to students, everyone can join. But joining you should stay in. Nobody will make you to come, you yourself should know why you are here.
And now I saw all these bright faces and shining eyes. Young adults, ex-students were so proud of themselves. During the party students thanked their teachers, said kind words. One young man delivered a very touching thankful speech. He was shying because he was not able to speak clear, but he was trying and that moment was the moment of happiness. I understood how much this first certificate means to all these girls and boys, how much they were trying to get it and what the ocean of opportunities is before them now.
That was very good and inspirational visit to Step up organization.
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