Our Work in Russia

Russia – Kitezh and Orion Communities

Supporting children’s education and wellbeing in rural Kaluga.

About Kitezh and Orion

We, just like many other charities who support communities in Russia, are finding ourselves in a difficult and distressing position due to the sanctions against Russia at the moment.

Kitezh and Orion are still very much part of Ecologia Youth Trust, and we are in regular communication with the foster families there. However, we have had to halt our activities with Russia until further notice. With our Russian partners’ agreement, we are holding all donations made to Kitezh and Orion in reserve until such time as we are able to send the funds to them

Our first ever project, Ecologia has been working closely with our partners, Kitezh and Orion, since 1995 to build village communities that provide abandoned or orphaned children with family support, an education and the therapeutic care that is vital to their health and well-being.

Our Children’s Communities consists of two villages: Kitezh and its sister community, Orion. Kitezh and Orion are non-profit communities of foster families whose aim is simple: to give abandoned or orphaned children a real chance in life. Founded on the principles of therapeutic education and care for nature, the communities are located in rural Kaluga region, south of Moscow.

Kitezh Children’s Community was founded in 1992 during Perestroika by Dimitry Morozov on an empty piece of land 300km from Moscow. Despite harsh economic conditions, he and his dedicated group of volunteer foster families built a thriving rural community with 16 houses, a church, a school and a farm. Together they developed a home for orphaned Russian children from extreme social situations.

After great success construction began in 2004 to build Orion Children’s Community. Orion was spearheaded by founder Dimitry Morozov and Masha Pichugina, who grew up at Kitezh and benefited from the work we did there. Orion soon became a home for 10 foster families and 40 orphan children. Although they are three hours drive apart, the two villages are closely connected. Several people from Kitezh now live at Orion and the children regularly gather to learn or work on a project together.

Kitezh and Orion are joyful, safe places for children. They are communities of dedicated foster parents, teachers, and psychologists who fill each child’s day with active work, study and play. Education at Kitezh is an all-round experience to prepare the children for life.
The aim is that the graduates of Kitezh and Orion enter adulthood as strong, stable individuals capable of playing their part in society. A remarkably high proportion of them go on to higher education, with many planning to return in order to give back to other children what they received.

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Did you know?

The problem with orphanages...

Children who are raised in an orphanage are provided with food, accommodation, clothing and schooling, but there is no one who cares about them personally. If a child has special educational needs or has a disability, the circumstances are even worse. Often, they are not given the psychological support they need as a result of early childhood neglect and abuse. There is very little hope for rehabilitation, and even less hope for a life outside the orphanage once they become adult.

The Russian Government’s recent programme to take tens of thousands of orphans out of institutions and place them with Russian foster families has been welcomed by Kitezh and child care professionals. However, it also has its problems. A lack of training for these parents means that many of them cannot cope with the challenges presented by children who are likely to have physical and/or emotional problems. Some of these children are returned to the orphanages, and the cycle continues. This is where Kitezh can help, as it provides its foster parents with training, advice and support.

What We Are Doing

Kitezh and Orion Children’s Communities in rural Kaluga region have had some considerable success in providing abandoned or orphaned children with family support, an education and the therapeutic care that is vital to their health and well-being.

Education and Wellbeing

While Kitezh and Orion are mostly self-sustainable, we continue to support the children’s education and wellbeing.

What We Have Achieved

Since 1995, we have:

  • Helped to build two children’s villages in Kaluga region – Kitezh and Orion.
  • Introduced therapeutic work with children to Kitezh Children’s Community.
  • Provided the professional training at Kitezh-Orion and in the UK that now forms the foundation of their therapeutic work with orphans.
  • Run successful volunteer programmes in both Kitezh and Orion Communities for over 300 volunteers since 1998.
  • Organised exchange visits for Schools and Youth Groups from the UK and USA since 2012

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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.