Over a number of years FHM has supported a variety of projects initiated by the Centre for Psychological, Medical and Social Support in Dzerzhinsk, a city east of Moscow. The projects have been directed towards finding innovative ways to support vulnerable children and families.
Many of these projects have become self-sustaining when the city authorities were persuaded to absorb them into its work. FHM has been happy to provide “starter funding” for these activities.
A three year project (started in 2015) called “Understand, Accept and, Then, Help”, was designed for children with learning difficulties, and for their teachers and parents. The project worked with 43 families in 2015 and 32 families in 2016. A “Train the Parents” course was highly rated by its recipients. Parents also had access to advice from a well-known pediatric neurologist. The final stage of the project facilitated the inclusion of special-needs children in general-education settings, and seminars were conducted for teachers, psychologists, and child psychology specialists in various educational institutions in Dzerzhinsk.
At least 28 educational psychologists were trained in new techniques for working with the children. Activities included “Brain/Feelings Gymnastics”, “Dreamers”, and “sandplay” or sand animation.
FHM funds allowed the creation of a “Creative Workshop” specially equipped for sand animation. “Sandplay” is a therapeutic method first developed in the 1920s. It was influenced by Jungian psychology and activates our capacity to recognize and organize symbols.
Children are given trays of sand and other materials. Starting with a statement from the therapist, children then build a world, turning the original statement into a story of their own. They have responded enthusiastically.
Games with sand have a positive impact on the psycho-emotional state of children, and are an excellent means for teaching and for self-discovery. As a rule, the forms and symbols that emerge out of playing with sand are deeply diagnostic and this made it possible for specialists to outline individual programmes for each child. The positive influence on the children was apparent by improvements in their emotional state, and the development of their communicative and cognitive abilities.
A total of 57 children took part in the project. Many suffered from emotional and expressive disorders, delays in psychological development and complex intellectual impairment. By the project end, 11 children were able to pass a standard survey of health. But to the project
leaders the “most important proof of success is the words of thanks from parents, who truly observe the effects of the programme… We watch happily as hope and pride are inspired in
children, and celebrate even small successes in development.”