Work in 2007

Relocation of the office
An important event of the year was relocation. The Board aimed to balance the ideal of a Friends House – a place in a convenient location that is peaceful, welcoming and open to all – with other financial obligations and with the constraints of the Moscow real-estate market and the current political situation for NGOs in Russia. Finally it was decided to rent space in a modern office block close to the centre. The new location is in an attractive building next to the metro in a commercial and business district. Friends House Moscow staff and Board are very grateful to two British Friends for their kind and generous donation towards the cost of the new premises.

AVP Russia

Workshops were held in Moscow (in the new FHM office), Lipetsk and Dzerzhinsk, and at a new site: a vocational school in the town of Korolev near Moscow; the workshops were warmly received and AVP Russia intends to continue at the school. Workshops were held for children, students at teacher-training universities, members of the public, and military conscripts. However, relations with the new personnel officer made holding regular workshops in the army problematic. Advanced workshops were held for AVP trainers, and seventeen people attended the General Conference of Russian-speaking AVP facilitators.
four AVP facilitators ran the final part of the Captains of Destiny workshop programme for children at Nash Dom children’s home in Tomilino, in the Moscow region. The workshops had a noticeable effect on the children’s patience, self-belief and readiness to understand and trust one another. A continuation of the project aims to do more work on communication skills, personal development and self-expression.

AVP Ukraine
AVP Ukraine focused on work in prisons. The Odessa Region Mediation Group expanded and consolidated its work with teenagers and young adults. Basic workshops were held with young offenders in the Odessa Investigatory Isolation Centre, and these led to a news item on local television about AVP. Facilitators were encouraged by the effect of the training on the prisoners and reported that there could be potential facilitators among them.
Workshops on conflict prevention were held in schools, and two children’s homes. AVP Odessa also ran workshops with students of psychology and social work, and with psychologists and did a presentation at a conference on conflict resolution in schools, attended by representatives from other cities in southern Ukraine. AVP Odessa translated the AVP youth manual from English into Russian, and this will be key to their work with teenagers.
Extending the geographical region of AVP activity in Ukraine, basic workshops were held in Simferopol (Crimea) and in Lviv (Western Ukraine). The new facilitators in Lviv held workshops in in a local prison for young offenders. AVP facilitators also gave a presentation at the Christian Prison Service Conference in Donetsk.

AVP in Lithuania
An advanced workshop was held in Vilnius. AVP facilitators in Vilnius felt inexperienced in running workshops at the advanced level and this workshop was well attended by facilitators seeking to improve their understanding of the exercises.

Mediation in Secondary Schools
This work is located in Moscow and Kazan. This project sought to identify school administrations in the Moscow area interested in introducing peer mediation programmes into their schools. Rustem Maksudov, the coordinator, brought together a team to make a film about reconciliation procedures in schools, and he presented the ideas and technology of the project to the school heads. Promotional seminars with the local education authority and introductory training for teachers led to contracts with two schools in Moscow. The mediation training programmes for students will commence at the start of the next academic year and will be funded by the International League for Protection of Human Dignity and Safety.

Alternativshchik Newsletter

The Alternativshchik is published by Sfera, an NGO defending the rights of COs and military conscripts, based in Kazan. The newsletter, the first of its kind, began in in November 2006, and has printed articles about the law on alternative national service, the activities of alternative servicemen across Russia, and alternative national service and CO issues in other European countries, plus articles about pacifism.
Since the first issue circulation expanded beyond the group of alternative servicemen working at the Kazan gunpowder factory. Contact was established with those working in Nizhny Tagil, a city on the Asian side of the Ural Mountains, who receive the newsletter on a regular basis. In April the newsletter was sent to alternative servicemen in Kirov, a city just west of the Urals. In June, project organiser German Alyotkin met with alternative servicemen in Cheboksary in central European Russia and circulation of the newsletter began in Izbezh, a city in the Western Urals.
There are approximately 850 young men serving the alternative national service in Russia. Of these, approximately 130 people now regularly receive the newsletter. Booklets informing COs about their rights to alternative service increased public awareness of the issue, but there was still a need for more information and for a sense of a common concern among the isolated groups of COs scattered across Russia. Alyotkin noticed the passivity of readers, who are interested in reading the newsletter, but do not volunteer to write for it.

Conditions in Temporary Detention Centres

In March 2006 Friends House Moscow agreed to fund Andrei Tumanov from Little Prince to join a group of human rights activists inspecting temporary detention centres in the Nizhny Novgorod region. The project was commissioned by the EU and a grant given to the Russian inter-regional NGO Person and Law (Chelovek i Zakon). The process of gaining permission from the City Department of Internal Affairs (militia) to carry out the inspections was long and arduous. Reports on the temporary detention centres revealed serious violations of human rights in regard to sanitation, diet, lighting, ventilation and health issues. The problems are well known to the authorities, which are regularly refused permission to renovate temporary detention centres because no funding is made available. It was hoped that public awareness of the problems would compel the regional authorities to make improvements.

Save a Child

The principal aim of the project is to create a website to attract donations to fund children’s operations and treatment for life-limiting medical conditions. The project also aims to raise public awareness in Dzerzhinsk of the need to make effective but expensive medical treatments available to ordinary people. Public interest in this cause was triggered in 2006 by the distressing story of Alina Zhatkina, a two-year-old girl in need of treatment for a severe form of cerebral palsy to enable her to walk and move freely. Her story was published in the local newspaper and local organisations organised fundraising events, which allowed her to undergo treatment. Andrei Tumanov, the organiser of Save a Child, reported that Alina would be able to complete her course of bone marrow transplants, which will give her a chance of a normal life, thanks to agreement from doctors at the Moscow Medical Technologies Institute to lower the price of treatment to the bare minimum. Alina was also taken to the Black Sea for a course of dolphin-assisted therapy. Her health still suffers from the negligence and professional errors that plagued her first years, but doctors report that she has every chance of being able to walk. In 2007 a fundraising rock concert entitled The Darker Side of Childhood was held in the city, attracting 2,000 people. The domain name of the site was registered, payment made for web hosting and progress made on web design.

Art Therapy at the Dzerzhinsk Family Crisis Centre

An art therapy programme developed at the Nizhny Novgorod Institute of Educational Development was started at the Family and Law family crisis centre. Lessons were held for pre-school children, and teachers and psychologists from local schools were recruited to be trained in art therapy methodology. School and nursery psychologists were also given a three-day training course in holding conflict resolution workshops with parents. An exhibition of the children’s artwork was organised at the crisis centre and local journalists were invited to attend.

Our Home (Nash dom)

This project began in 2007. Children from Orphanage No.8 (Moscow) and children living with foster families were interviewed and took part in a series of workshops focusing on their hopes, plans and personal interests. The introductory sessions aimed to improve memory, logic, concentration, and behaviour, and to promote the children’s personal development and their communication skills. The foster parents were offered advice.

Big Change

When the 2007-08 school year began classrooms had been renovated and several new teachers joined the project. Pupils had an opportunity to discuss their summer experiences at the 16th Student Conference. During the academic year 2007-2008, it was planned to offer educational support to 60 pupils, current and former inmates of orphanages.

Educational Support for Refugee Children

The centre continued with testing of new students, individual lessons for students, psychological support, and finding new volunteers. 461 lessons were given, aiming to help the children adapt to school life and become more motivated. Many students showed increased motivation and all completed specific academic individual tasks. The Centre worked four days a week, including Saturdays. A training seminar for the volunteers was held, and a website for the Centre was created.

Rehabilitation for Children with Special Needs

The Third All-Russian Festival of Special Theatres took place in Moscow in September. Some of the children who took part were in Moscow for the first time. This festival addresses the exclusion of disabled people, and promotes their integration into society. Information about the festival was given on the radio, TV and in newspapers, and posters were put up in the city centre. The festival helped to form contacts and cooperation between organisations working on special art.

Quaker Outreach

Gathering for European Clerks

Two representatives from Moscow Monthly Meeting, Misha Roshchin and Natasha Zhuravenkova, attended the Gathering for European Clerks at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre.

Publication of Quaker Literature in Georgian

As part of an ongoing translation project of Quaker literature into the languages of CIS countries where there is a growing Quaker presence, Friends House Moscow funded the publication of 300 copies of Advices and Queries in Georgian.

European and Middle East Young Friends Spring Gathering

The EMEYF Spring Gathering was held outside Moscow from 4-11 April. Seventeen young Friends from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, America, and across Russia attended the wintry gathering at a rural retreat in the forest. The gathering fell over Easter and emotions were aroused as Friends examined the concept of sacrifice and Quakerism and the way in which individuals have been led to God through sacrifice (as in the cases of John Woolman and Tom Fox). Friends were moved at a midnight Orthodox Easter service, which for many of the non-Russians was their first experience of an Orthodox service. Liz Sugden, a Young Friend from Northwest YM (USA) talked about her missionary work in the town of Elekrostal near Moscow, which gave insight into the faith and practice of evangelical Quakers. The event was an enriching and thought-provoking experience with a strong feeling of spiritual centredness.

Woodbrooke-on-the-Road at Moscow Monthly Meeting

Julia Ryberg, Woodbrooke’s European Project coordinator, held a Woodbrooke-on-the-Road event for Moscow Monthly Meeting. The two-day course focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the meeting, its aspirations and spiritual resources, and what the meeting had to offer new seekers and attenders. All participants were in agreement about the meeting’s capacity to help and support its members in times of need.

International Membership for Friends in Tbilisi

FHM staff Peter Dyson and Sergei Grushko travelled to Tbilisi with Julia Ryberg to conduct interviews for international membership on behalf of FWCC International Membership Committee. The applicants, who are attenders at the informal Tbilisi worship group, placed emphasis on the importance of community in Quakerism as a potent instrument for doing God’s work. They viewed the absence of liturgy and demonstrations of institutional wealth in Quakerism as particularly relevant to a country with widespread poverty and damaged social welfare structures, and sought a faith expressed primarily through direct social witness. Further, the open, democratic structure of the Religious Society of Friends, particularly the equal role of women within it, was seen as a liberating alternative to the Orthodox Church.
The hope of the group to become a recognised worship group and ultimately a monthly meeting was emphasised. The FWCC representatives invested much time in guidance on Quaker ordering and understanding of leadership, laying the groundwork for further learning and eldership. The visitors were encouraged by the natural and non-domineering way in which the two informal leaders worked, both with each other and serving the group.
The visitors came away with the feeling of having witnessed a true grass-roots community and the impression of an eagerness and thirst for learning that may reflect that of the early Friends.

In October FHM received news that the FWCC International Membership Committee had welcomed seven people from Tbilisi (Georgia), and one from Barnaul (Siberia), into membership. Earlier Peter Dyson and Sergei Grushko had travelled to Barnaul and Tbilisi to conduct interviews with them. The Tbilisi group became a recognised worship group.

FHM staff

Natasha Zhuravenkova (Moscow Monthly Meeting) joined the staff, and Greg Holt, a young Quaker from the USA, worked as an intern for a month.