I am prompted to think back to the golden September weekend in 2006 when I first visited the children’s community in Kitezh.
Although I had already been sponsoring Ecologia’s project, it was my first real contact with the community and I knew almost at once that I wanted to become more actively involved. I became a “godparent” sponsoring Slava, and later Sasha and Maxim in Orion, and have come to know them and their foster families well over the years. I have managed to see all three fairly regularly on my visits to Russia and we remain in touch as friends. Sasha has even managed to visit me in France, and I very much hope to welcome Slava and Maxim too one day. Helping these three boys – now young men – to make their way in the world has been a most rewarding experience.
Apart from sponsorship, I have also worked as a volunteer on several occasions: teaching English, doing routine chores, building, planting, helping out in the workshop. I have also helped to introduce the children to astronomy. For me, this kind of activity has always been more therapeutic and more fun than the average holiday.
The children are energetic, enthusiastic and inquisitive, and always have something to say for themselves. It can be hard to keep up with them. Like all children, they are capable of being naughty, as I have found on more than one occasion!
Kitezh and Orion have adopted a philosophy of education from which I believe much can be learned elsewhere. It offers challenges for children in a safe environment, promoting a healthy self esteem and self-confidence together with respect for others. It acknowledges the needs of the individual child while emphasising the importance of the community; rights with obligations. In this very special, positive environment, children learn to make the most of their own lives while helping others to do the same.
– Bill Cobb