Sevenoaks School – Kitezh Youth Exchange

Sevenoaks School – Kitezh Youth Exchange

Sevenoaks School in Kent, UK, visited Kitezh in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and foster children from Kitezh were hosted by Sevenoaks in June 2013.

Sevenoaks School in Kent, UK, visited Kitezh in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and foster children from Kitezh and Orion were hosted by Sevenoaks in June 2013 and 2016.


Sevenoaks School to Kitezh

In April 2012, four pupils from one of England’s most well-regarded schools, the Sevenoaks School in Kent, visited Kitezh for the first time with their Russian teacher Jon Drury, to practice their communication skills and get to know Russian culture.

After that successful first visit, Sevenoaks groups have returned to Kitezh every Easter, each time enjoying the richness of community life. Jon writes: “It is an inspiring place. Our pupils lived in families and integrated fully into the quite unique life of the community.

Sevenoaks group 2015cropped
Sevenoaks 2015 visit, including Vardaan (second from left)

There was, of course, plenty of time for fun and laughter, and a physically demanding but hugely rewarding volunteer project, when we helped dismantle the wooden frame of their ‘summer canteen’, which had collapsed under the weight of the winter’s snow. There was a big concert, morning exercises, folk dancing and games, English lessons and plenty of socialising with our hosts. The Kitezhans are some of the friendliest Russians I have met, and we are looking forward to furthering our relationship in the coming years.”

Vardaan Mehra (17) wrote: “Thank you so much for welcoming us with open hearts into your lives. As soon as I stepped off the bus on Sunday I felt at home straight away. It is sad that I have to leave, because I love this place and everyone here. I have never felt more at home in any other place I have been to. Four days is too few to spend here, which is why I want to say that I will do my best to return and stay here for longer, and hopefully there will be old faces and new faces again. I will do all I can to return. But for now all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you for such a wonderful time and the lifelong memories that will always stay with me. Kitezh will always be in my heart.”

Watch this short film from Kitezh about volunteering, including a piece by Russian teacher Jon Drury:

Kitezh to Sevenoaks

Sevenoaks - Kitezh Exchange - Kitezh Foster Family
Foster Family from Kitezh on exchange to Sevenoaks, Kent

From 2 June to 10 June 2013 Sevenoaks school hosted four orphans and a foster parent from the village of Kitezh in Russia.

Through a sponsored Santa Run the Sevenoaks Sixth Form Russian group raised the money to fund the Kitezh children’s visit to Sevenoaks.

Part of the ethos of Kitezh is allowing such children to develop and gain confidence through overcoming challenges. There was plenty of scope for this during their stay as they learned how to rock climb in the Sennocke Centre, completed a three hour treetop adventure at ‘Go Ape!’ at Leeds Castle, and overcame their fears of various rides at ‘Thorpe Park’ as they joined a Y10 Physics trip! They also spent time in school, shadowing pupils and helping in Russian classes. Other days were spent in Cambridge, London and Brighton. It was a magical week, that these four young people will never ever forget, and it is certainly something that we hope to repeat in the future.

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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.