BU Orphanage

BU orphanage buildingThe orphanage in Belskoye Ustye is an MHSD or 'psycho-neurological' internat which is home to about 100 children and young people aged between five and nineteen.

Belskoye Ustye is a small village of about 100 people, and so the orphanage, with its 100 children, is a very significant part of village life. The nearest town is Porkhov, 16km away with a population of about 18000 people. The regional capital, Pskov, is about 100km away.

The 'psycho-neurological' class of orphanage originates in the Soviet era, and was intended to be a system of institutionalized care for children and young people who were unable to function as productive citizens. Hence orphanages of this type are usually found away from population centres. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet system, the state of these orphanages became very poor, and, apart from the obvious material poverty, the children were offered more or less nothing in the way of education.

Children at BU with summer camp volunteersROOF began work in Belskoye Ustye in 2000.  From the beginning of this century, material condictions began to improve, with help from organizations such as ROOF and international humanitarian organizations as well as significant investment from the Russian government. However, educational provision was slower to improve. In 2000 we held our first summer camp with fun learning opportunies for the children from the orphanage. We have also provided from then on teachers who work with small groups of children in various subjects.

Over the years we have been working in Belskoye Ustye we have seen a remarkable transformation in both the physical environment and the opportunities on offer to these children and young people, for whom, when we first saw them, would have been appropriately labelled "forgotten".

Still, there is much still to do. There is a difficulty in retaining bright and educated young people in the area, as they tend to gravitate towards Pskov, St Petersburg and Moscow. We need to encourage bright young teachers to stay and work with the next generation. We wish to continue to broaden the children's experience of the world, and provide them with encouraging ways to learn so that they can break out of the cycle of institutionalization, and this also means developing our programmes for 'graduates' of the orphanage, such as the Abilitation Centre. We wish to provide the children and young people with effective and good mentors and teachers whom they can trust and with whom they can develop relationships that last.

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