As Monday was a “holiday” (as Sunday was the 8th of March, and it’s crazy popular here), the weekend was filled with primarily cultural activities.
However, on Saturday I accompanied Valiya, another student of Sergei’s to their school. There, I met with one of the directors, in particular the one who works with disabled students. She talked a lot about the school and really focused on their inclusion of disabled students into a normal school curriculum, which was super fascinating. In fact, the school is pretty well integrated, and they are actually considered a “Rehabilitation Center”. Their aim, is to bring students with disabilities into the normal working world and allow them to function as individuals. Many students participate in classes with non-disabled students, encouraging a communicative and sharing atmosphere. Additionally, there are many students who go on to teach or assist new students at the school; they also participate in Russia’s national Paralympic Games, and have won a significant amount of prizes.
They also took me to this “relaxation room” that they have in the school. I swear, every school needs such a room. Imagine, classical music, a massage chair, and soft lights with floating fish.. who can go wrong?! They insisted that I sit in the massage chair – a horrible idea for someone with on-going jet lag, but how can I resist!? The director ran me through all the different mechanisms in the room and their specific purposes – aroma therapy to ease the mind, mood lights, which change colors depending on your feelings, and a little pit that looked like a McDonald’s play pen, that was meant to be a stress-reliving arena for people to lie in. In all honesty, I may take a sarcastic tone (because it’s all so crazy its hard to believe anyways), but REALLY, this room was SWEET. Like seriously, all schools should have something like that – a place where students can go, close themselves up, and just relax.. I’m sleeping already.
On Monday, I met with Alexander Arkhipov. He works within the local government, as a Social Advisor of sorts. As he explained, he works a lot with organizations to seek funding for projects, helping them learn where they can find funding, how they can apply for it, and if received, how they put it best to use. He ran through a lot of the basics of pretty much all the steps, and explain the organizations; it’s quite similar to how we go about seeking funding in the US. There are federal grants, worth a significant amount of money, followed by regional grants, and preceded by smaller, local grants. The organization composes a proposal for their project and applies to these competitions, if chosen for another round, they may have to go to Moscow to present to a board, etc.
Thus, Alexander also provides organizations with seminars on how to draft grant proposals (he writes many of his own for the local government), how to crowdsource and fundraise for your cause, and tips on hosting good events. Likewise, helping youth become leaders and organizers is another key aspect of his job.
[Side note: they actually use the terms “crowdsource”, “fundraise”, and “volunteer”, and it took me some time to realize they were actually referring to those exact terms, and not some unfamiliar term in Russian.]
Thus, Alexander often works with youth organizations to secure funding for different projects (such as the disability fund at the College), and also with other foundations, such as one that assists the homeless. He showed me a news report on this exact subject, regarding an older woman from Kazakhstan who lives in a cloth hut in the forest with her puppy. Through various groups, non-perishable items are collected and distributed to people such as herself. As she is unlikely to come into the city for help, cars are additionally donated in order to transport supplies to the people. Likewise, Alexander has helped set up locations around town where people can come for consultations, such as if their apartment was repossessed because they couldn’t afford their credit, or if they needed legal help, but didn’t know where to find the exact expert necessary for their cause.
Essentially: Alexander is a busy man, helping the people. But before he went back to work.. “lets take a selfie”.