Work in 2008

Friends House Moscow work in 2008
(November 2007-October 2008)


Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP Russia

AVP, an international movement which promotes communication skills, spiritual awareness and conflict management, has been active in Russia since 1994. AVP Russia is governed by its own council which meets monthly at Friends House Moscow. In Russia, AVP works with army conscripts and in the wider community. It is active in three main centres – Moscow,
Lipetsk (Central Russia) and Dzerzhinsk (Nizhny Novgorod region).

Ten one-day workshops were organised in Moscow, on themes including “Self-esteem”, “What No One Talks About”, “Personal Boundaries”, “Resources”, “Interaction” and “Me, World, Family”. Several shorter presentational workshops were also held, as well as four longer events – three basic workshops and one “Training for Trainers”. AVP usually uses the FHM place for its workshops. Workshops were also held in Lipetsk and Dzerzhinsk.

AVP in the Russian Army
Army workshops were held in Moscow and Lipetsk. In Lipetsk, five basic workshops were held. In Moscow, three basic and six one-day workshops took place. Workshop themes included “My Family, Peace and Me”, “The Meaning of Pleasure”, “About Collaboration”. Local media reported positively on the project. The project ended in July as unit commanders very often refused permission for soldiers to participate. The facilitators are trying to
find a way of continuing work with this target group.

Facilitators’ Seminars
Ten representatives from AVP Russian and AVP Ukraine met during the Zhiznigrad Spiritual Festival. Fifteen facilitators attended the second seminar of the year.

International Congress
Two facilitators from AVP Russia took part in the International AVP Congress in Kenya, where they also had a chance to hold several workshops with local people.

Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP Ukraine

AVP Ukraine began workshops for women in pre-trial detention centres, and continued the work with in prison colonies for young offenders and at the Odessa investigation detention centre. AVP facilitators started working in the Crimea (basic workshop) and at Belgorod-Dnestrovskye in the Odessa Region (basic workshop with school psychologists and social workers in the educational system). One basic workshop was held in Kirovograd, also with psychologists and social workers. Facilitators adapted the workshops for practical training on conflict management at the Christian Humanitarian Economic University, Odessa.

The facilitators also met several times to share new exercises, to work out new ways of working together and to find new places for their activities. The Odessa AVP group translated the English-language Manual for Work with Young People into Russian.

Al’ternativshchik Newsletter for Conscientious Objectors
In the last year German Alyotkin (Kazav) has published ten issues. Topics included problems of peace-building, non-violence, and the Russian-Georgian war. Copies of the newsletter were distributed among alternative service conscripts in four new regions. From September the number of project participants was increased and the newsletter received financial support from other bigger organizations. Readers remain passive, reading the articles but not contributing their own. However, Vitalii Adamenko (Samara) has begun to locate new material about non-violence and pacifism.
FHM’s Sergei Grushko and Peter Dyson visited Alyotkin, and met some of the forty young men carrying out alternative service work.

Reconciliation Procedures in Schools

Permanent mediation centers were established at three schools in Moscow, one school in Kazan, and at Trust, the social services organization in the municipal center in Kazan. Pupils learnt mediation methods and practiced conflict resolution within their groups. As a result their behaviour improved and the rate of aggression decreased. There is much more understanding among pupils and also between pupils and teachers now. In Kazan the project leaders held training sessions for mediators who are starting conflict resolution programs at their school. They met with students and supervised the first mediation sessions.

The All-Russia Training-Study Conference “Teaching Restorative Justice Methods in the 21st Century” (Moscow) facilitated an exchange of experiences between the Russian cities which have conflict resolution centres and programmes (Perm, Lycva, Volgograd, Urai, Novosibirsk, Kazan, Dzherzhinsk, Volzhskii, Petrozavodsk, Velikii Novgorod). 70 teachers and pupils from Moscow schools attended.

The Moscow Department of Education asked The Centre for Judicial and Legal Reform to organize a discussion on school reconciliation programs, which was held in April.

The project also developed films to aid in school reconciliation training, and worked to prepare for an international conference on reconciliation.

My New Family

This is a new project, operating in Dzerzhinsk. It aims to develop a system for assisting children and teenagers who are in foster care. The project is aimed at widening the activities of the Crisis Centre of the Family and Law Social, created with the financial support of Friends House Moscow. The children, who have been abandoned by their biological parents, often have behavioural difficulties and developmental problems. The foster parents often lack psychological-pedagogical knowledge about the needs of these children and lack the skills to bring them up.

Rehabilitation for Children with Special Needs (The Circle, Krug)

A summer rehabilitation gathering was held for children and young people with serious disabilities, and also for their parents, in a village near Moscow. Another gathering was held for Special Theatre Festival laureates near the town of Ivanovo.

Krug gave a contemporary ballet performance at the French Embassy in Moscow, and theatre performances as a part of the international project From Creative Success to Independent Life in Moscow. Krug has also choreographed a new contemporary ballet, Do Flies Have Individuality? Scenes were shown at the Tretiakov Gallery’s special programme for the International Day of Disabled Persons.

Our House (Nash dom)
The main aim of the project is to help children from the orphanage adapt to an independent life without hostility, to give the children experience of positive communication, so that they want to form a friendly environment around them, which is non-violent and based on respect, and to create positive self-appraisal. The project leaders hope to see the participants’ level of aggression and anxiety decrease and their level of trust increase and that they feel less and less a victim and start taking responsibility for their actions. They also hope they will stop smoking and learn to solve conflicts in a non-violent manner.

In the first year, individual meetings and interviews were held with twenty-two children. Individual learning plans were drafted jointly with the children’s home. The children took part in workshops, which increased their motivation to study better. The children also developed their ability to arrange their own educational process.

Children who live in institutions often have no one to take them out, and therefore they rarely go to any cultural or educational events. Under the project children from the orphanage took part in guided tours, conferences, hikes, concerts, and visits to theatres. After the excursions and performances, the children wrote short reviews (What we liked. What we didn’t like. What was striking? What was amazing?). In their reviews, the children formed their own opinions.

Project leaders have noticed that the children who live with foster families have problems with orientation in the city. For example, one student did not make it to the cello concert because she could not remember the name of the metro station or of the concert hall. With this in mind, project leaders are now working with children on skills for finding their way in Moscow.

Big Change

Of the 835 classes given in the first half of the year, 475 were paid for by funds from Friends House Moscow. The remaining classes were paid for by other funders.

Of the five teenage participants, three have now passed their exams for the 8th form and are preparing for exams for the 9th . After passing these exams, they will have the opportunity to enter technical schools to train for a profession.

Educational Support for Refugee Children
The project helps to address the issue of lower achievement among migrant children (mainly from from the Caucasus and Central Asia), psychological problems in these children, narrow cultural experiences, inadequate schooling, and the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the first half of the year the Centre for Adaptation and Education provided 2554 lessons (including psychotherapeutic ones), and worked with sixty volunteers. In addition, it held tests for students at the beginning and end of the year, and gave two teaching seminars for volunteers. A rehabilitation and peacekeeping seminar was held for school teachers from North Ossetia. The Centre’s staff met with specialists who work in the state programme for integration of refugee children into the Moscow educational system. The Centre also organized nine excursions, four holidays, and three visits to concerts. Children visited Moscow museums and theatres, and the historic cities of the Golden Ring.

Light Club

This youth club was started for older students from schools in Dzerzhinsk (Nizhny Novgorod region). The club came into existence as a result of the partnership between two social organizations, Family and Law, and the Centre for Psycho-Medical Support for Children and Teenagers. The club helps young people to socialize and develop family values. The project included lectures for teenagers and their parents, workshops, role-playing for students, and a workshop for head teachers. A brochure The ABCs of Family Happiness, was published and distributed among the participants. In February Natasha Zhuravenkova from FMH visited the club, but unfortunately, when the project came up for renewal in March there were insufficient funds to continue supporting it.

Quaker outreach

The FWCC booklet Friendly Advices on Quaker Ways was translated into Russian and Georgian, and the FWCC booklet Cheerfully over the World was translated into Georgian. The translation of Quaker Faith and Practice into Russian continues.

In July FHM supported the participation of seekers and AVP facilitators in the Zhiznigrad Spiritual Festival. It was held near Moscow at a big campsite. In spite of the rainy weather there were about 1,000 participants representing the different goups. There we heard about a number of religions, forms of prayer and meditation, yoga, music, and other things. Sergei Grushko and Craig Zevin, a young American Friend, spoke about Quakerism. We had a small stand at the front of our campsite with Quaker literature and information for people to take. It was clearly very popular, as the outreach CDs and booklets went very quickly.

Quaker booklets and CDs were sent to seekers in Samara, Saratov and St Petersburg. Sergei Grushko continued to maintain the Russian-language Quaker website He and Elena Belyaeva (a new International Board member) are also a part of an international team which is working on the new online Friends’ learning project being developed by FWCC-EMES and Woodbrooke.

The Annual Meeting of the Board was held in Moscow and Board members took a tour of the new office. During the last months of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 there were visits from Moscow Monthly Meeting members and Friends from other European and American meetings. AVP facilitators councils and workshops. The AVP Big Circles continued to bring together participants from different parts of Russia and Ukraine. Project co-ordinators visited. The March Executive Committee meeting was held in London, thus enabling staff (Sergei Grushko and Natasha Zhuravenkova) and Line Manager (Peter Dyson) to meet with Quaker Peace and Social Witness, FWCC World Office, and AVP London.