HOW THE CENTER IS FARING
On Saturday at the camp, Director Natalia Nikolaevna talked to the committee of volunteers about the state of the school.
Some of the good things are that the 2nd year of students from the Center graduating from the town school were more successful than the first set in this new arrangement. Everyone completed 9th grade (when they can transfer to “College,” ie. Vocational Training Institutes).
And they were able to retain the school building that had been the upper school at the Center by repurposing the rooms–more on that below. Of course she also mentioned the success of the 3 singers in the “You’re Super!” contest TV show, and next year one or two from the Center will audition for the 2nd season of the contest, which will be about dance.
Some of the bad things are that bureaucracy keeps thickening, and now they must report all monies, including gifts to the Center, and have all purchases cleared in Chita. Projects like floor repair and other construction, now require submission of three bids, the winner to be chosen in Chita, not by the Center, even though the money may not be state funds. And if all the i’s aren’t dotted and t’s crossed, and without constant prodding, things can be interminably delayed and money might never be seen.
As for the children, the high schoolers now get less developmental attention than before. They come home from school, do their homework and there’s little time for more. With the old in-house school, this psychological help was integrated into the day. Everyone needs help, these parentless kids more than most. And the wonderful Rainbow Nation child government isn’t working as well with the older kids at town school; the sense of community is somewhat lessened now.
THE TOUR OF THE CENTER
Then, after the concert, Director Natalia Nikolaevna took me to see what has happened at the Center in the last two years, since they were required to close down their upper school and send those children to the town’s school. Well, what I saw is wonderful.
Those upper school classrooms are now:
- a relaxation and massage room
- a library
- a crafts room
- a room for adoptive parents to meeting potential adoptees: there they have events when the adoptive parents can bring the children back for play and counseling, both for the kids and the parents, the kids love coming back to their old home, and the parents can get on-going assistance raising them
- the computer room, where the most preferred computers are the re-conditioned laptops we’ve been carrying there a few at a time each time we visit
- the wood-working studio
- a gym that is shared with the public (members of the company supplying fuel to the Center use it a lot, in informal exchange for free fuel)
- a playroom for the very young
- and a “Military-Patriotic Club”
A point made over and over as we passed from room to room was how donations of money and material from Siberian Bridges contributed to the place. Those curtains were bought with SB funds, that desk, that table, this room furnished with our funds. Those crafts are all constructed with materials from SB Chair, Chuck Ritchie’s crucial bi-monthly boxes–beads, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, ribbon, glue, paper, etc–that small children’s play area completely financed by us, much of the relaxation room’s lighting, reclined chairs, pool of plastic balls, foot massage pads were made possible by our modest grants. Natalia Nikolaevna said, “You helped us keep our building! It was going to sold away from us.”
And this is beyond the stated requests like the previously reported large inflatable slide, oxygen drink machine and sand painting table (which I tried. It is fantastic!) NOTE: The Center has been providing us with detailed accounting of the use of our funds ever since our first grant 4-5 years ago.
The following paintings are all done with paints we sent.
Another smaller, though significant point made by Natalia Nikolaevna and two of her staff: the materials we send, especially craft materials, especially markers, pen and colored pencils and paints, are of such good quality that it affects the quality of the children’s handwriting and artwork–increasing their respect for their own efforts.
Finally, DolliesMakingADifference.org an imaginative effort based in Los Angeles, gave me dollies to bring to the Children’s Center. This is a wonderful organization that insisted that they pay for all postage and the dollies themselves. I had the idea that a place like the Children’s Center with a somewhat regular stream of new little children coming in, might be able to use a regular stream of comforting soft dollies to give to the lonely newcomers in the nursery.
I gave the project over to the local volunteers you’ve seen in photos accompanying these Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky reports to handle as they judge best–making their own direct contact with Dollies Making a Difference or using me/SB as a contact. I can’t yet report on what exactly will happen, but I know this: the Center’s staff LOVED the dollies (not distributed yet that I know of) and now I have a doll made by children at the Center as a craft project to bring back to Dollies Making a Difference as a thank you souvenir!