Two projects to support

  1. Feola reports being told about The Swallow project in the Friends House Moscow office, by Sergei Nikitin, who has visited The Swallow, which is a combination of playtherapy and psychological rehabilitation for children in the refugee camps near Nazran, Ingushetia, which is west of Chechnya.

    2 out of 5 inhabitants of Ingushetia are refugees, mostly from Chechnya, and mostly living under canvas, in very poor conditions. Five play therapists work with each group of about sixty children for about a month, before moving on to the next camp. Often they work in large tents, with wooden floors, small windows and inadequate furniture. The children are usually aged between 10 and 12, and, once divided into smaller groups of about a dozen children, they draw, play organised games, discuss, use plasticine, write something, under the guidance of Swallow play leaders who have received a brief amount of training at FHM in dealing with the psychological needs of traumatised children. The children are allowed to keep the toys and equipment they use, when The Swallow staff move on to the next camp, and thus there is a continuous need for replacement stuff.


  2. The Moscow State Boarding Institute for Persons with Problems of Muscular Control and Movement (which thank goodness has been given approval shortly to change its name to Moscow State Humanitarian Institute ) is a University College situated in the North-East of Moscow. It is unique in Russia and probably in the world in being specifically for physically disabled students, though not deaf or blind students and was originally set up by someone with slight cerebral palsy. Three quarters of the students have this condition, slightly or severely, and the rest have a variety of problems, such as paralysis of the legs due to shingles at sixteen, broken spines from climbing, diving or car accidents, curvature of the spine, etc. I was recently a guest of the Institute and spent hours talking to pupils, particularly those in the Modern Languages Faculty where English and German is taught. There are four other faculties: law, applied mathematics, publishing and economics, and there are also lessons in philosophy, philology, and information technology is starting up in the newly-opened computer suite. They have just got an e-mail address: mii (note American spelling.)

    There are about four hundred students, aged between seventeen and twenty-five. They come from all over the Russian Federation, from as far afield as Vladivostock. Tuition is cheaper than in most ordinary colleges, and there are ground-floor rooms for those in wheelchairs, plus a doctor and nurse to hand, and a lift within the teaching and administration block. Under the new Rector, there are plans to become a more open place, and to update the very delapidated premises, provide lifts for the four-storey accommodation blocks, provide a therapeutic swimming pool, a sponsored mini-bus (many students are virtually stranded in the buildings) and generally improve the facilities. The students of English have very traditional lessons, sitting in rows, working through a five-volume text book during the five years of their degree. There are no language lab facilities whatsoever, nor an overhead projector, nor a working tape-recorder, nor any sound cassettes. I suggest that the provision, over time, of a single language-learning booth with headphones would be an absolutely wonderful gift for students who may well go on to become pioneers of better provision for the disabled within Russia. The students have never had a teacher from England or the USA, and long to make contact with the outside world. (Further info. from me if anyone wants to visit or to send stuff.) Competition to enter this Institute is fierce, with some five applicants for every place, and over a period of several weeks I found the students full of resilience, good humour, thoughtfulness and kindness to each other. The students love music, and one, Olga Fastiy, does the best Michael Jackson-style dancing I have seen, and is writing her final year dissertation on the use of songs in the teaching of English. THESE STUDENTS ARE THE AGE WE WERE WHEN WE PARTICIPATED IN THE TRIPARTITE PROJECT. I spoke about the project, and the ideas that lay behind it, to groups of students.