Since 2013 we have sent some boxes including a relatively recent World Book Encyclopedia to the Zasopka village’s school (11 grades, ~400 students) and then learned that the relatively few books that were useful in that collection are being shared with 33 other similar village schools for English education. Upon learning that, we asked if they’d like more such books and the answer was a resounding “Yes!”. The useful books are very early English, few words, lots of pictures, used as supplementary materials for encouragement. As of Summer 2015 we’ve sent about 10 boxes to Zasopka.
Recent (Oct 2015) correspondence with Natalya Petrenko, the wonderful English teacher in Zasopka who first approached us said that the recent donations were good. We included a few box sets of the “Bob” series of early English, and she said they looked liked they’d be useful. She and her village English teacher colleagues will meet in in November and discuss the books and other possible contributions (computers, see next paragraph) to this underfunded schools.
In 2014 Tom Dickinson met Ms Petrenko and toured her school. He found out that the school had only two computers—one in the physics classroom and one connected to a “Smart Board” in the 1st grade room. He suggested we might be able to provide some reconditioned laptops to the school. Her school’s principal approved and this summer we brought them two laptops set up with Linux operating system. Initial reports from Ms Petrenko are that they are useful, but we want to learn how they are being used so we can do the best thing. One newly learned option is to send “Raspberry Pi” computers. These are very inexpensive (~$45) and very small (approx. 1.25″ x 4″ x 2″) and run Linux. They require screens, keyboards and mice, but those items may be easier to come by.
Natalya Petrenko’s messages:
“Many thanks for your parcels. Picture books are wonderful, easy to read and children are very glad to have such a present from our American friends. They are so surprised that sometimes they run up to me and ask: “Are these books really from abroad?” The students read them at the lessons and even during the breaks. On the 16 of November there was a seminar of English teachers of Chitinsky raion. I told them again about your sponsor activities. The teachers are very much obliged to you for it. They develop in students the wish and interest to study English and your books help them do it.”
Feb 11, 2014
“Hello, Tom! Thank you very much for the books you presented us. I have received all 5 boxes. The encyclopedias are beautiful and so much information. That’s great! All the rest books are also good, especially about animals. I know students will read them with great pleasure. We are very much obliged to you. On the 14th of February there will be a seminar in one of the schools of Chitinsky area. I will tell you about your present and the teachers will change the books for their students.”
Since 1992 Siberian Bridges has donated over 5,000 books to the Pushkin Regional Library, Zabaikalye’s largest library, located in the city of Chita. Our donations represent the single largest contribution from any source to the Pushkin Library and have been used as an example to encourage local contributions. While the majority of the books remain in the library’s collection, a significant number are redistributed to needy village and school libraries.
Most of the books we have sent are in English and other non-Russian languages and include both fiction and non-fiction. Subjects have ranged from history and sociology, political and natural sciences, criminology, and environmental studies.
Our donation of academic books on the social sciences in the mid-1990s proved to be an important resource on subjects of substance abuse, family psychology, spousal abuse, etc. for which there had been no native Russian research during the Soviet era. We also donated three English language encyclopedias, a children’s one, the World Book and a very recent edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. We’ve also sent a complete set of National Geographic Magazine from 1932-2000.