At the fire station
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.
In a fire-protective helmet
In the orphanage
In the cabin of a fire-engine