Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life

by Step Up
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life
Giving Russian Orphans an Equal Start in Life

When Zhenya was sixteen, he finished college and began work in a factory that makes equipment for ships. He has been a mechanic in this factory ever since. He began attending classes at Step Up in 2018. Here is his story in his own words:

“At school we were given the choice of becoming a joiner or a mechanic — that was all [young people graduating from correctional schools are routinely given a limited selection of courses they can study at college]. So, I chose mechanic.

At the factory, they know that I study at an evening school — I don’t hide it. Of course, they’re a bit nervous that I will leave early, but I need to be here [at Step Up] at 4pm. I get up at 6am, I work until 3pm and then, at 4pm, I have to be at evening school. That’s been my schedule for the last three years.

I want to finish studying and take up a different profession. In one word: I want to develop. I'd like to be able combine a career as an engineer with history... I was always interested in history.

I come to Step Up in order to study. I feel how the world around me is changing. For example, in how I socialise with people. If you have contact with intelligent people, you find out things and then you can use them in real life. At some point, I decided that this is all necessary for me.”

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The 2020-2021 academic year has been one of the hardest in our history. The Step Up community is built on personal interactions — and coronavirus has meant making some difficult changes, above all moving so much online. But we have continued to grow and adapt!

Using the opportunities of distance learning, Zoom and video conferences, we reached the milestone of almost 20,0000 lessons this year (13,000 in person and 6,700 online). And our online education programme involved a record 142 students from orphanages and struggling families all over Russia — from Karelia on the border with Finland, to Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea, and towns and cities in Siberia. In total, 384 students have participated in Step Up’s educational programmes this year.

The rise in coronavirus cases in Russia the early summer meant we were obliged to cancel several planned events and move our annual graduation ceremony online. But it was still well attended!

“Looking at how you have all studied so hard, it becomes clear where our success lies,” director Olga Tikhomirova told those on the Zoom call. “And thanks to your successes we can talk about the successes of our teaches. Thank you all for working together!”

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Misha grew up in a Moscow orphanage and has been studying at Step Up for more than five years. In that time, he has completed his military service in the army, advanced his education in leaps and bounds, and taken an active part in the life of Step Up, including regularly volunteering. He wants to be a lawyer. Here, Misha talks about the importance of Step Up in his life:

"As a child I was always told that I wouldn’t achieve anything, that I will not be a very positive figure. This always fired me up. I wanted to show everyone that I could achieve something. How did they know that I couldn’t do something, that I was not equal to other people? Give me a chance, put me behind a desk, and I’ll show everyone what I can do.

For me, studying at Step Up was a challenge. It was a chance to see what I was made of: what I was capable of, what I could do myself without any help. Step Up is anopportunity. An opportunity to open up something deep inside you, something you haven’t notice before and that may have been asleep. Step Up is that needle to prick you into action.

I remember one story from the beginning of the year when I had only recently started coming to Step Up. I was very active and occasionally rude. I remember how I made a bad joke and offended one of my classmates. After that, Olga Vladimirovna took me aside and said that if something happens to the person I offended than it is me who will be responsible. That took me down a peg or two. Firstly, I had never seen Olga Vladimirovna like that before and, secondly, I was scared my words could actually have an effect. I was ashamed, and skipped class for three days. And then I turned up again and apologised. Now, I try and think before I speak.

At Step Up, I have learnt how to love and understand the people with whom I interact. In the five years I have studied at Step Up, I’ve become a much more sincere person."

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Step Up at the summit of Elbrus
Step Up at the summit of Elbrus

With most of Step Up’s normal summer programme cancelled because of the pandemic, a group of Step Up volunteers, students and teachers decided to take on a formidable challenge. Their aim was to conquer the highest mountain in Europe, Elbrus, which is located in Russia’s North Caucasus. A mere 5,642 metres!

The organization of the trip was done by Step Up student Aleksei, while the group was led by local guides Anna and Evgeniy. After more than a week acclimatizing on the lower slopes of Elbrus, the party left at 3am on 9 August from the last overnight stop on the mountain, to make the final ascent to the summit.

The weather at the top was perfect, and the view spread for dozens of miles in all directions! Twelve people from the party made the final ascent, with others keeping at lower altitudes for health reasons, or because of altitude sickness. We left the Step Up flag we took to the top at Elbrus' Shelter 11 — where the flags from summiteers are traditionally flown.

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Step Up organises a graduation ceremony for its students every year, but this year it was particularly memorable. The last few months before exams saw the education centre switch to remote learning because of the coronavirus outbreak in Moscow. Our graduation ceremony was conducted as normal, although we observed social distancing and all wore masks.

As you may notice, the masks were specially produced for the event — they were black, and featured Step Up’s logo in orange. They were a big hit with students and teachers!

Among our graduates this year were Nikita, Artyom and Anton. Here’s a few lines from each of them about their studies, Step Up and their approach to life:

Artyom: “In my childhood there were those who said about me, and about many others, that we would take to drink, become drug addicts, and that the girls would be prostitutes, that we would never learn anything, or achieve anything. I’m happy to say that I now understand this is not true. I’ve been able to achieve things, and I will continue to do this.”

Nikita: “I’ve been coming to Step Up for three years. I’ve discovered that you have the freedom to say whatever you want, and no-one will tell you off”

Anton: “It’s not worth erecting a frame around yourself. If you do this, you’ll simply stop growing, everything will be a well-trodden path, and every day a ground-hog day.”

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Step Up

Location: Moscow - Russia
Website:
Project Leader:
Anna Lukyanova
Moscow, Moscow Russia
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