The Children's Communities we are partnered with in Russia are non-profit villages of foster families whose aim is simple: to give abandoned or orphaned children a real chance in life and hope for the future. With your help, the original community has been building a new Education Centre in order to increase the number of orphans who can benefit from the therapeutic education it provides.
Thanks to you, the first sections of the centre have already been completed, allowing vulnerable and, in some cases, traumatised children to receive a high-quality holistic education. Although we are bringing this stage of fundraising for the centre to a close, we invite you to continue to support the children in both communities by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can provide you with up to date information and further ways to maintain your help.
Thank you for your generosity and interest in our work. Please watch this space for our next project, which will be launching soon!
Ed Hatfield visited Kitezh in 2014 with the group from Sevenoaks School, Kent, UK. This visit left a lasting impression on him of the strength of Dmitry Morozov's dream for the care of neglected orphans in Russia, and in 2016 he returned as a volunteer at Kitezh for 3 months.
In the three months I’ve been here, Kitezh has transformed from a freezing, grey and sometimes snowy landscape into a warm and incredibly green home, and the adults and children who live here have transformed with it, changing very quickly from strangers into trusted friends.
The strength of the community and what the citizens of Kitezh achieve together is astonishing – the energy that goes into every project, every task of the day… Of course, the first priority in Kitezh is the children. This quickly becomes obvious, blatant even, in the respect each of the children is given and the devotion to their days given by every adult. The Kindergarten, lessons, sports, excursions, crafts… the citizens of Kitezh work tirelessly. And their work has results - the vitality now shining from so many of the kids here. I have at times been forced to try to match up the tragic history of some of the children here with now happy faces running around outside in the new warmth of spring. The difference that Kitezh as a community makes for each of these children cannot be underestimated.
This is what makes working with everyone here – children and adults both – so simple, so rewarding. There is a great amount of strength and life in everyone here, and it is easy to put all your energy behind them, knowing it is being used well. The simple tasks the volunteers perform – kitchen work, grass cutting, moving building supplies – these liberate everyone else here who has made Kitezh their home to do the things we cannot, inspiring the children and helping them develop and prepare for the Russian life ahead of them.
That being said, there are skills that the volunteers can offer – our hobbies, and our languages. It has been deeply satisfying to teach the students in Kitezh English. The small, lively classes are a world away from any institution and the freedom to teach in any way you please, to do anything you can think of that you think will help the students, has been wonderful. Individual classes with the more advanced students have been another source of fun, as all the terrible quirks and flaws in English put me to shame on a daily basis and their (and soon my own) exasperation with all our synonyms comes to the fore. To see myself having an impact on the children, to know that I have taught them something and they’ve enjoyed it – this has been supremely rewarding and deeply fulfilling.
Kitezh has shown me many things and I am a changed person (for the better, stronger, more self-assured, honest) for my wonderful time here. The intense nature of this charmed village makes you look inside yourself and wonder just which pieces of yourself you want to take back home, and which doubts and insecurities you can let fall by the wayside, to be lost forever in the new waist-high grass and the lupins.
Imagine a poor rural family, two small boys and two alcoholic parents. “Sometimes we didn’t see them for days, once it was three weeks. The neighbours gave us food and even let us sleep in their house.” Inevitably the social services stepped in and the boys were taken to a ‘shelter’. Fortunately not long after, a couple from Kitezh, Misha and Masha, were looking for another child, or two children to take into their family. So in June 2008, a quiet but inquisitive little boy and his older brother Anton came to Kitezh ‘for a holiday’. Everywhere he followed his brother, who wanted to know how things worked. They were free to join in whatever activities they liked and it became clear that they were open and willing to participate in the life of the community. “I thought it was just another village in the country.”
The bureaucratic process proved difficult and disheartening, dragging on for months, owing partly to Max’s poor health at that time, but eventually, Max and Anton became part of Misha and Masha’s family - new parents with a new bigger brother. It wasn’t always easy, but Max liked having Sasha, the oldest boy in the family, to show him what to do and how things worked in Kitezh. But best of all was having Masha and Misha there, every day - “Every day! And nearby all day.”
“You know, when my natural father died, it was a shock, someone close to me dying - but it seemed ordinary too. After all he was always drunk. So when my mother died, it didn’t really matter. My REAL parents are Misha and Masha; they’re good to be with, they love me. Now I’m seventeen and I know if it wasn’t for them, I might be a drunkard on the street, or maybe I’d be dead.”
Next year Max will go to a top university in Moscow to study Geography (inspired by the Kitezh Geography teacher, Misha!), Maths and Russian. “I want to travel, I want to see this country, so maybe with these subjects I can get a good job where the boss will pay me to travel!”
This is not an unusual story, this is what inspires Kitezhans to keep on doing this work, year after year. A remarkably intelligent boy has the opportunity for education that would not have been available to him had he remained in an orphanage. The story from the parents’ side is often one of patiently enduring years of rejection and hostility from children whose life-experience has taught them to always expect the worst; until they are finally able to accept the love and care of Kitezh.
Now Kitezh is building, growing, inspiring others. Your donations have really helped to make a difference to Max and all the other children who have found loving homes and a unique education at Kitezh. However, these are difficult times: Kitezh needs your support now to continue its important work. Please make a donation now!
We’ve come a long way, with your help. October 2013 was the start - cutting the turf, we had no idea if we would ever have the funds to build our dream!
By the spring of 2014, we had foundations and hope!
By the summer we had optimism, but no roof. Through the generous donations of our supporters, on 1st September of last year, 2015, IT HAPPENED! The school opened and the first classes began.
Let me tell you in the words of one of our senior students what this feels like.
“Now we have moved into it, I really like our new education centre. It`s comfortable to have several of our classes in one building. We used to have to run between houses to get to classes and sometimes it took the whole break just to do that. Now we have enough time to do some useful or just interesting things. In the hall we have ping-pong tables; it`s really cool because now we can play ping-pong during the break.
Lessons in classrooms are better because there is nothing except the view out of the window to distract your attention. The best classrooms are literature and Russian language. But the whole building is already beautiful, especially at night. When the lights are on in the centre it looks like a spaceship.
When it was being built it was something unbelievable. Even the foundation seamed unreal. I remember how we stood on it and couldn’t imagine how the rooms would be arranged. Now the dream of the centre is becoming a reality with one quarter already completed. I hope that it’ll all be completed sometime soon, and there will be a theatre and a hall for sport and maybe even a swimming pool.
I’m in my last year at Kitezh school so it’ll be cool if someday I come back and see it completed with new pupils and new opportunities. I think I’ll be quite envious.” [Svetoslav, 17 years old]
Times are hard as we all know; we have built the foundations again, and with your help, we can build the next quarter - classrooms for all, for English and chemistry, classrooms for the primary school; no more wrapping up against the snow to run from Geography to Maths. Thank you for helping us put the bricks on the foundations, to make Svetoslav’s hope come true.
We want to send a BIG thank you to everyone who has so generously and tirelessly helped us to get this far with our ambitious project!
Preparations continued throughout the summer, and finally, on 29th August we were able to officially open the 1st phase of the Family Development and Education Centre - now in daily use. Everyone loves it; the bright modern classrooms and their unusual windows, the warm building and the large recreation hall. It has a comfortable feeling to it, curved walls and lots of light. Every evening and some lunchtimes the table tennis rivalry is played out, often to the accompaniment of the percussionists. No doubt there will soon be other musicians exploiting the space. I hope to get lighting set up for theatrical productions.
Katya (16) says: "I really like the new classrooms, they're bright and those windows are super! Lots of likes. I like to sit in the window, on the sill!"
In spite of the poor financial climate, just two weeks after the beginning of the term, we placed our faith in providence again and poured the foundations of the second phase. After preparation by our builders, it was a day-long great team effort, involving almost every able-bodied man in the community, pushing and raking the flowing concrete from the succession of ready-mix lorries. Needless to say, celebrations followed.
Now again we put our trust in our many friends and supporters, to help us raise the funds to build nine classrooms. Then we will have all our classrooms in a single modern, efficient building; no need for children to wrap up in coats and wander across the site from class to class; no more scramble in the corridors for boots and coats. Though the cold outside air wakens the brain, maybe enough time can be saved for another o lesson in the day.
With your help, when we have completed the third phase(!) we will have a theatre and a gym and a dance studio and canteen, all in the same elegantly curved complex.
Please help us now to continue this inspiring work on our foundation, to construct the new classrooms that will then allow 100 children to study in the innovative, creative Kitezh School.
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