Kitezh: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Kitezh: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Volunteer Ed Hatfield tutoringEd Hatfield visited Kitezh in 2014 with the group from Sevenoaks School. 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.

He writes:

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.

Kitezh Volunteers 2016The 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.

Volunteers June 2016That 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.

Ed Hatfield

Volunteer at Kitezh Children’s Community from April – June 2016

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susie Kemp

Susie has 30+ experience as a creative copywriter, editor, and proofreader, starting out as a 20-year-old copywriter in the Mad Men world of early 1990s advertising in South Africa. Ever since, she’s had a love affair with creative conceptualisation, thinking outside of the box, writing to a deadline, and being thrown in the deep end!

She took an MSc in Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University as a mature student, in 2015, and continues to keep herself busy working as a copy-editor, proofreader and copywriter in book publishing, corporate communications, and publishing project management.

Apart from her love of working with independent authors, Susie has a fondness for working in the third sector and likes to use her corporate communications and marketing experience to support projects close to her heart. She has lived and worked in the Findhorn area for 25 years, and has been involved in a number of third sector projects and organisations, and family businesses.

Working at Ecologia Youth Trust helps Susie to live in integrity with her values of supporting the next generation to be the best that they can be, and she sees it as a way to give back to Mama Africa, the beloved continent on which she was born.

Ellen Shaw

Ellen joined the Ecologia team in June 2018 as Marketing and Communications Manager. Ellen has lived in Scotland for 6 years and has worked for non-profit and charitable organisations across varied fields. She currently shares her passion for helping young people through Ecologia Youth Trust and she works as a dancer and dance teacher in her spare time.

Robyn Cooper

Robyn is the Associate Director of International Projects, having previously worked within the team as a Project Development and Marketing Officer from April 2019 until May 2021. As Associate Director, Robyn is co-leading the International side of Ecologia with Founder and Director, Liza Hollingshead, bringing a new energy into Ecologia as they look towards the future of the charity.

Liza Hollingshead

Liza is the founder of Ecologia and Director of International Projects. She was born and educated in South Africa and worked there as a high school teacher. She moved to live in the Findhorn Community in 1974. She started Ecologia in 1995 after being introduced to Dmitry Morozov, the founder of Kitezh Children’s Community in Russia, and was inspired to support the community in its mission to rescue orphaned children from institutions and give them homes, families and education in a supportive environment.

This led to projects supporting disadvantaged youth and children in South East Asia and in East Africa. TRead more about Liza’s story here.