Ekaterina, a volunteer of our charity organization “Shag navstrechu” shares her story, the experience she lived through as well as her impressions about a volunteer’s everyday work.
How I came to work with children:
I am a mother of a “special” child with sensomotor aphasia. When he was 3 years old, he did not know and could not speak even a single word, he had behavior disorders – hyperactivity, hyperkinetic syndrome; and psychiatrists diagnosed him with “mental retardation” based on this.
When he was 5 years old, teachers refused to work with him further. They told that he was unteachable and should be given special medicines otherwise he would be impossible to teach. I listened to the specialists’ advice… We stayed at the day patient facility of children’s mental hospital for 3 weeks. My child started to chande. From hyperactive, noisy, cheerful and healthy child he turned into slow moving creature with no willpower and no interest in anything. I started to panic and quickly sought the advice of other specialists and found a great experienced doctor in Pskov who was also a nice person. She recommended me to stop this treatment immediately since it impedes the child’s development. Therefore, I stopped it and made a written refusal from taking medicines further. Because of this, we were kicked out from the day patient facility since they refused to treat us.
I was in despair since we were also kicked out of kindergarten because of behavior disorders – the consequences of taking these medicines. I knocked in every door where people worked with such children and continued to receive the same recommendations – to take the medicines and get prepared for school in order to study by the “special child” program.
Nevertheless, I knew and believed that my child had the potential for development! That he is quick-witted and one only needs to get on the right side of him.
I truly wanted my child to study in a general education school! After I calmed down, I decided to resolve the problem of education and preparing for school on my own. My activities certainly were not educationally correct sometimes and my methods were not very humane, but … When he was 5.5 years old, my “special” child was reading fluently, even though he could not talk, and completed all non-verbal test items meant for a child of his age. Psychiatrists were at loss and kept saying: “But he does not talk!” We waited for another year and by 7.5 years my son started to talk (very poorly though), so I insisted that our case should be reviewed by the city medical and educational committee. My child is 11 years old now and he is in 4th grade. He is a straight-A student! I have not expected this result myself and I have never been more satisfied with the work I have done in my entire life. So I understood that I want take care of children’s development and that I can do it well.
My child is disabled and this allows us to attend additional classes, events, establishments and health improvement camps for children with health limitations. My life, the scope of my interests and communication as well as my outlook have changed dramatically. I now have many acquaintances with “special” children, we meet and exchange knowledge and share our impressions; I got acquainted with many of them at health improvement camps. I learned more about these children and the more I knew, the more I came to like them.
These children are different, they are not like ordinary ones as they are better and more innocent, they are pure.
They do not pretend and it is always obvious what they like and what they do not. They are cheerful, the world around them shines with bright colors and the people near them become better and more patient. They are open for contact and it is possible and quite necessary to teach them. The result from working with such child can be unpredictable; this is something that I learned from my own experience. I am interested in working with such kids, as I feel good and comfortable in their company. I understood that I want to teach such children. I want to help the kids whom the other teachers “rejected”, the kids who are no longer expected to show any achievements or results.
How I came to work at “Shag navstrechu”:
In 2015 I enrolled in Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University at the faculty of special needs education, “oligophrenopedagogics” specialty. My education is taking place within a shortened timeframe since I already have a higher education but it will be complete only in three years. Therefore, I decided to change the sphere of my activity and find an opportunity to “gain” experience, “to enter into my specialty”, and to become more familiar with “special” kids. In October 2015 I saw a volunteer search announcement of “Shag navstrechu” in one of Pushkin city related groups in “V kontakte” social network. I made a phone call, then scheduled a meeting and then started to work. I was very scared at first that I would not be able to do it since (as it seemed to me) the children were very different from “family” ones. Parents always accompany the “family” children, and if something does not go well, you can always ask for their advice. Here children are very “complicated”, there are no hints, and you are supposed to establish contact in any way you can. After the first few days I started to doubt if my new specialty was a wise choice. However, I gradually was immersed in it, became friends with children and we started to understand each other.
What is charity for me:
Standard definition – it is helping people who require assistance free of charge. I do not see my work at the orphanage as charity, since I am interested in it no less than my children are. My children help me to develop and I feel joyful and gain priceless experience by communicating with them as well as with the teachers who work at our orphanage. I will rely on this experience in my future professional activities. Therefore, I think that this work is actually a charity towards me. I want to say thank you to everyone who helps me in my work!
This was my story. If we talk about charity in general, I believe that it is important, necessary and useful. The positive result is achieved not only by people whom the charity is aimed at but also by those who do it. As we all know, good deeds return to us by something good. We become better, kinder and more innocent. I believe that this is the most effective way to change the world for the better!