It was early in the morning when the teachers headed off to the orphanage, to deliver the huge amount of gifts that were so kindly donated. It took over an hour just to get all the gifts onto the bus, and with such an abundance of beautifully wrapped boxes and bags, we set off, delighted to have the opportunity to deliver them.
After a three hour bus journey we arrived safely and were warmly greeted by the director of the orphanage, Ms. Nadiyeshda. She welcomed us into the building and brought us into her office, explaining the background of the orphanage. She informed us about some examples of other donations they receive, the lack of adequate funds they receive from the government, the problems that they face on a daily basis and then brought us on a tour, so we could see, first hand, where our presents would be going and who would be using them.
Firstly we met with the eye specialist that works there. There are a significant number of children in the orphanage that are visually impaired, ranging from mild to severe. This wonderful lady works with each of the children; helping them with daily activities, teaching them through braille, and most importantly trying to stimulate those with some eyesight and work on allowing them achieve according to their individual capabilities. She allowed us to see some of the children’s work and what kind of equipment they had to work with. Considering the lack of resources for such a demanding task, it was unbelievable to see their varying achievements.
Following that, we met a lot of children and teachers. They were in class when we arrived. There were a variety of age groups, working diligently, as we walked from class to class. The children ranged from the age of seven to eighteen. Their manners were impeccable as they all stood to greet us and showered us with ‘Hello.’ We saw a variety of classes going on, from art to chemistry to Russian literature and many more. The teachers were very honest about their school situation, where days could be very hard when children were emotionally distraught regarding their situations and explained that they were not only teachers, but also taking the role of parents, doctors and nurses, psychologists and friends. Their ability to adapt into such a variety roles is very admirable however also very pitiful as they should have more support and resources in order to fulfill every child’s needs.
Next we headed upstairs and saw their bedrooms, which portrayed a stark, harsh reality for these children. There were four single beds in each small room. These beds all had thin mattresses and a brightly covered quilt covering them. The children had no personal possessions, apart from the odd teddy bear that could be seen. They had no wardrobes of their own and a very limited amount of clothing. This was a very upsetting fact, thinking of our own fortunate, personal childhoods and all the lucky children that we encounter every day in Skolkovo.
Engaging the children was our next step. The children performed a musical piece with Russian spoons and to see the visually impaired children perform with such precise rhythm was fantastic. Then we created a large piece of art, where the children produced an individual section that would eventually be one large combined piece. Each separate segment had to represent them personally and presented everyone as a cohesive unit when it was finished. This was a wonderful experience as we got to talk to the children about their own thoughts and aspirations.
We were then invited to have lunch before we left. We had a thorough discussion with the head teacher and asked about a variety of ways in which we could help further. It was an insightful experience opening our eyes to the lack of equipment, clothing, toys, teaching resources and amenities that should be available. The people who work here do such an admirable job. However these children need more. Our help here is only beginning….
Ms. Claire, Ms. Aisling, Ms. Karen and Ms. Olga