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Helping disabled young people to find a job

Job search

We were delighted to receive a grant from the BEARR Trust (www.bearr.org) for new work in the city of Dzerzhinsk, to help disabled young adults find a career.

The project has both short term and long term objectives:

  • The short term aim is to assist a number of disabled young people to determine a choice of occupation, and prepare for placement in a job including necessary social integration.
  • The longer term goal is to establish a system for disabled young people aged 18-30 to choose an occupation and prepare for a job, involving training, inter-departmental coordination and a bank of information and training materials.

No such system exists in the Dzerzhinsk region at present. The project would establish a coordinated system involving a number of local agencies to ensure the inclusion of disabled young people in finding a career.

The main service delivery will be through the Centre for Psychological, Pedagogical, Medical and Social Assistance (PPMC). Additional partners on this occasion will include Vera, the club for people with disabilities, the Department of Social Protection, Pokrov Social Centre, the Employment Centre and educational institutions in the city.

In recent years FHM has funded a project in Dzerzhinsk to develop skills and techniques of teachers working with children with special needs. This was part of PPMC’s mission to develop the potential of all children and young people to fully participate in education, and to promote human values. This work in preparing disabled young people for employment is a fitting sequel to this previous project, which has been implemented in schools throughout the region.


Remembering Eleanor

Eleanor Barden, 24 February 1932 – 26 March 2018

A Memorial, by Sergei Nikitin

Eleanor Barden resized 250pctSad news has come from Northampton Quaker Meeting — Eleanor Barden is dead. I met Eleanor a very long time ago, 20 years ago. She was Friends House Moscow’s long-time treasurer; she was involved with an enormous number of Friends House projects.

By the very beginning of perestroika she had already founded her own travel company, Goodwill Travel, trying to strengthen ties between ordinary people in the USSR and in Britain, an opportunity that had become possible under Gorbachev. It was Eleanor who first drew me to the Peace Tax Campaign, where I met interesting people, pacifists, who were working earnestly to hold back their hard-earned dollars, pounds, marks and francs from the militaristic systems of their countries.

I had a chance to travel around my own country with Eleanor, to its nearer and farther corners, including Nazran. There, sitting together in the back seat of a dusty automobile, we went to camps for persons displaced from Chechnya.

Next to the driver, there always sat a local guy with a Kalashnikov machine gun on his knees, which distressed Eleanor very much: it was not in right order for a Quaker to go to meet refugees with a gunman next to her.

She embraced every misfortune as if it had been her own, repeating that she had been a refugee herself; as a child during the war, she escaped from the island of Jersey, which was occupied by the Nazis.

For her nothing was insignificant: I recall a story of how her Meeting, Northampton Quaker Meeting, collected money and bought waterproof covers for mattresses for the littlest children in the cardiology clinic in Buzuluk.

Eleanor had some comic notions, for example, she was convinced that, in Russia, women — as a rule — did not drive automobiles. This was a magnificent misconception of hers, on which she loved to hold forth, always hand in hand with telling about how, in Cuba — as she had been told — they do not know what time it is, because they have no clocks. I often heard these stories from her, along with one other: in Russia, they do not know what an invoice is. Such endearing quirks of Eleanor’s only made her individuality richer and more interesting, I will always remember her with gratitude, rejoicing to have known this remarkable woman, an English Quaker. May she rest in peace.

Sergei Nikitin was the first head of Friends House, Moscow. His personal memorial of Friend Eleanor Barden has been translated by Patricia Stewart.

This post first appeared on Facebook here. The original, in Russian, can be found here and is included in the Russian language Facebook group “Квакеры”.

Another six weeks for the Refugee School

Refugee School kids

We were very pleased to receive a special grant from New Earswick Meeting to support the Refugee School in Moscow.

The “Kids are Kids” Integration Centre caters for about 80 refugee and migrant children, who have arrived from a variety of places including Africa and the middle east. The Centre helps the children integrate into Russian life. It runs activities for preschoolers, classes in Russian for school students, and a full teaching curriculum for children who are excluded from state education because their parents have no Moscow registration.

More than 80 people – university students and professors, private tutors, psychologists – volunteer with the Centre to deliver the programmes.

Recently the Centre has struggled to find funding to cover costs, which include stipends for programme coordinators and meals and travel for the children. Friends House Moscow helps as much as it can.

This special grant (from a legacy) of £3,000 is enough to keep the Refugee School running for another six weeks. After that there is a desperate need for more funds to help the School to continue.

New Earswick is a Quaker Meeting near York in the north of England. The photo is from the Refugee School website (in Russian), http://kidsarekids-center.com/.

Annual Report and Accounts 2015

The Friends House Moscow annual report and accounts for 2015 is now available, and can be viewed or downloaded by clicking here.

White Sail - Peacebuilding in Odessa

Alla Soroka writes about a Quaker peace initiative in Ukraine

[This article appeared in the 24 September 2015 edition of the British magazine The Friend, www.thefriend.org.  It is reproduced here with permission.]

Preparing a craft activity | Photo: Alla Soroka

Preparing a craft activity | Photo: Alla Soroka

The ‘White Sail’ summer peace camp, which was made possible by generous funding by British Friends and Meetings, ran from 15 to 26 July 2015 in the ‘Blessed Summer Recreation Centre’, which is forty kilometres from Odessa. There were eight families participating, including eleven parents, eleven children above the age of fifteen years and seven children of ten to fifteen years of age. They were all displaced people from the Lugansk and Donetsk regions as well as the Crimea, who were recommended by charities and the social services.

We hoped to create a safe space for people who had been displaced by military action in which they could feel at ease, rejuvenate themselves, relax and strengthen their family relationships. Read more…

Annual Report and Accounts 2014

The Friends House Moscow annual report and accounts for 2014 is now available, and can be viewed or downloaded by clicking here.

Running the Great Manchester Run

The Great Manchester 10K Run took place on 10 May 2015.  Our Friend Rebecca Critchley took part in the run to raise money for Friends House Moscow.  Here is her account of the event.

Great Manchester Run course map | www.greatrun.org (permission requested)

Great Manchester Run course map | www.greatrun.org (permission requested)

It is only when you see the aerial photographs of the Great Manchester Run that the scale of this event which totals around 40,000 participants becomes apparent. On the ground, the teaming masses are individuals with stories and reasons to be there, that are as diverse as life itself.

The colourful meadow of charity t-shirts stretching for miles across the city centre reflects the sheer will, and determination of the human spirit, to do something powerful that day, often in the name of loved ones. The date in the calendar can for some, become a focal point in a journey of recovery. The event not only gives people an opportunity to contribute  to a cause they believe in by raising sponsorship money,  but also it  raises the question for all participants of physical preparedness. Even to walk 10k, which many participants do, takes a certain amount of stamina. Training and being mindful of getting in shape can only bring about a sense of positivity, and the physical benefits of changing lifestyle habits with this event on the horizon, can be far reaching.

For my part this year, I set myself the target of running (trotting!) the entire way, with no walking. I did it! My chosen charity this year was Friends House Moscow. Quakers have worked so hard and in very difficult circumstances to establish a base in Russia, and their influence in conflict resolution and social justice is a ray of light. Mark and I would like to thank everyone for their sponsorship.

Results: Mark 49:56, Rebecca 1:31:50

Rebecca raised a total of £491 for Friends House Moscow, for which we are very grateful.

Friends Together - Virtually

Skype at BYM 2015

At Britain Yearly Meeting (held at Friends House, London in May 2015), Friends House Moscow tried an experiment in connecting three countries together.  Our programme staff, in the office in Moscow, and Alla Soroka of AVP Ukraine, speaking from Odessa, were brought by Skype into the London meeting room for a live discussion with British Friends.

Skype audience at BYM 2015Topics included the current work of FHM and the Alternatives to Violence Project in Ukraine, which is working increasingly with people displaced by the conflict in the east.  The discussion was conducted in a mixture of Russian and English, and we are grateful to our Friend Bonnie Grotjahn for interpreting where needed.  We are also grateful to the staff of Friends House for rigging up the complicated technical setup needed to beam our Russian and Ukrainian participants right into the room, so that everyone could hear and see them – and vice versa.

We are fortunate that the technology exists to create such linkages, in a world where understanding people face to face – and answering that of God in everyone – is so important.

Peace work in Ukraine

John Lampen writes about a Quaker peace initiative in Ukraine

[This article appeared in the 5 February 2015 edition of the British magazine The Friend, www.thefriend.org.  It is reproduced here with permission.]

A peace meeting in Odessa. | Photo: Courtesy of Roland Rand

A peace meeting in Odessa. | Photo: Courtesy of Roland Rand

In early May of 2014 Mikhail Roshchin, of Moscow Meeting, and Roland Rand, of Tallinn Friends Worship Group in Estonia, brought a concern to the Europe and Middle East Section (EMES) of Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC). They wished to travel to Ukraine to find out what ordinary people were experiencing in the midst of violent conflict and ask if there was anything Quakers could do in a modest way to foster local peace initiatives. Friends who gathered in Strasbourg for the EMES annual meeting recognised and upheld this concern, and asked EMES to facilitate it by banking any money collected for it.

An article appeared in the Friend (16 May 2014) after which Friends, many Meetings and two trusts, together with sources in other European countries, gave enough to cover the costs of our two Friends’ visits. There might be some surplus for small-scale one-off support if some promising Ukrainian peace work was identified.

A tolerant environment

In the meantime the violence was getting worse and this made it unsafe to go during the summer, which was the original plan. Eventually, Roland visited Kiev and the Odessa region in September. In conversations with members of different ethnic groups, young people and a religious leader, he found a universal wish for the fighting to end, though some did not want this if the price was the break-up of the country. Read more…

Russian Adventures: a conference

Woodbrooke combined logoOn 28-30 November 2014 Friends House Moscow held a conference entitled “Russian Adventures: Russia, Quakers and Civil Society”, at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre (Birmingham, U.K.).

Almost 50 people, both Friends and non-Quakers, participated. Highlights of a varied programme included the keynote speech by Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International in Russia, and a Quaker Meeting for Worship in which Friends at Woodbrooke were joined live by Skype by Friends in Kazan and Moscow.

Here is an account of the conference by one participant, Rebecca Critchley:

In November last year I attended the Russian Adventures weekend at Woodbrooke. Friends attended the conference from far and wide, including America and Russia. Many had links with Friends House Moscow (FHM). Read more…