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Social work at a rural parish

Rev. Vladimir Klizmo

This article is about the social work carried out by the community of St. Vladimir' Church of the diocese of Yaroslavl. Our church is one of the largest rural churches in the district. It was built by merchant Alexey Prozhigalov of St. Petersburg in the center of the old village of Davydovo along the high road between Rostov Veliky and Uglich. Under the Soviet power, the church shared the common fate of our churches. It was closed in 1936 to serve later first as a warehouse and later as a club. In 1998, a community was organized in the village. They requested the then ruling bishop of Yaroslavl, Archbishop Mikhey, to give his blessing upon the restoration of the church. Thus the church was reborn.

In the beginning of the restoration the church stood without cupolas and crosses. The belfry spire was missing; the roof partly collapsed to give rise to a whole grove growing on it, and trees grew on its summer blockhouse. Now the church is stuccoed. The cupolas and the belfry spire are restored and divine services have been celebrated in the winter part for five years now. As the church is being restored, parish life around it is coming back to life. At present there are a farm now with land, cows, sheep and horses, as well as metal- and wood-working workshops and a refectory.

As its construction and household initiatives developed, the parish began to form its social service concerns.

Aid to people in trouble

The first concern in our social work was to give asylum to those who wished to reconsider their life and to rethink their life goals by changing their situation. Many of them, though not all, had lost their family, housing and job and suffered in their despair from alcoholic dependence. There was nothing new in giving help to these people since the old Russian tradition of people's coming to work in monasteries or parishes for the glory of God was reviving.

In today's galloping and aggressive everyday life, one often feels like a squirrel running round in a cage, often losing the point where one's action begins and where it ends and losing the very meaning of life. But once caught in a situation making you free from social responsibility where you 'owe nothing to anybody' and where you are free from thinking about your daily bread, shelter and warmth, which are now provided by a parish in which you work and pray, make confession and take communion, you are given an opportunity for looking into yourself. Our 'guests' live at the parish, normally by two in a 'cell', as temporary workers observing semi-monastic rules. They fulfil work tasks, observe a stronger personal rule of prayer, read in church the akathistos to Our Lady the Inexhaustible Cup on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and try to make confession and take communion on a regular basis. Those who have to leave the community for various reasons often come back or in most cases maintain contacts with us by calling and offering help. Of course, there are also those who fail to get along with the parish, but the parish is not a sect and everyone has the right to choose the way of communication.

In the beginning we tried to help drug-addicts, too, but later had to give it up in the awareness that this help requires special attention and conditions, which were lacking at the time. Besides, we worked with children and teenagers, and it was impossible to mix them with drug-addicts.

Our kindergarten

A little later we opened an Orthodox kindergarten and a primary school. And here too, we did not invent anything new but just tried to improve the situation outside the church. The life of many villages in the backwoods was dramatic in the last 10 or 15 years. Most of the collective farms went bankrupt with villagers falling on evil days, becoming drunkards and sinking into vice. Sound and active people left in search for a better life. Only the miserable remained in most villages. The number was multiplied by failures who were rejected by the city and who came back under the parental roof in order to swap the parents' pensions for drink. The consequences of changes happening to the rural community are tragic. We can see to our deep regret that the children and youth growing there are sometimes the posterity of alcoholics in the third or fourth generation. It is impossible to watch these developments with indifference. For this reason we tried through the efforts of the parish to organize local children who are mostly orphans with their parents alive.

Thus our little Orthodox kindergarten 'Small Seeds' appeared. It was founded in 2006 on the initiative of parishioners as well as parents of children living in our village. The need for it was great since all kindergartens in the district were closed or ruined when collective farms were liquidated. The only kindergarten was twenty kilometres away and was overcrowded at that. Our kindergarten began with five kids and one kindergartener. Today there are 17 children, a director, a kindergartener, two cleaners and three teachers for various classes. The children who attend the kindergarten are very different: there are kids from large cities, local children from good families and children from troubled families living below the poverty line in a savage situation. The kindergarteners and teachers are mostly people who have come to live or reside at an Orthodox parish.

The basis of the program we use is the Orthodox faith and Russian traditional culture. Once a week, our children are engaged in modelling, drawing, gluing, constructing, singing to the accompaniment of guitar, accordion or balalaika, playing children's musical instruments and playing traditional outdoor games. They celebrate birthdays and name-days in the small garden, and three times a year, on the Day of the Protecting Veil, Christmas and the graduation day, the whole parish and all the parents are invited to a concert or a spectacle or just to a joyful celebration. Children together with the kindergarteners can take communion in our church. If there is a wish, one can come to the parish farm to see the cows, piglets, sheep and, mostly importantly, to have a ride on a pony! In addition, our kids can take part in parish outdoor celebrations on the Pancake Week and the Trinity Day.

Our kindergarten is supported by the parish. It is housed in a small private wooden house with three windows. We have only two small rooms and a tiny porch which also serves as a cloakroom. The large room is used as a game room and a bedroom, and the small one as a dining-room and an applied-art workshop. There is stove heating, and instead of a lavatory we have a bio-toilet behind the stove. Water is brought in buckets, and the dishes are washed in small tubs. All the kindergarten staff, except for cleaners, are unpaid. The stoves are heated, the water is brought in, and the meals are cooked also for free by people living in the community.

The number of children in our village is growing with every year. We would like to create a larger cosy kindergarten with the necessary number of rooms, bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining-room and a gymnasium. We would also like to have a strong team of teachers for a more skilled educational work (for the five years, five kindergarteners have been replaced).

Our primary school

In 2008, Archbishop Kirill of Yaroslavl and Rostov gave his blessing upon our attempt to found an Orthodox school. Its first pupils were two local boys, a first- and a third-grader, both repeaters given up for lost not only by local schools but also their own parents. So we began with them. By the end of the first term the teachers realized that their poor school results were caused by enormous pedagogical neglect combined with their teachers' strong fears that they might do something wrong, as their parents were not distinguished for any special softness in their pedagogical methods. As a result of two-year efforts, one of the pupils managed to finish his grade and enter the fifth grade at a nearby secondary school, while the other continued attending our school. His family changed a great deal as his parents gave up drinking, sent their second child to our school's first grade and the father came to our church for a service for the first time in his life.

Now we have begun a third academic year. We have five pupils - three third-graders and one second-grader who is given individual lessons, and the last one, the most 'uneducable' with whom we had begun our school, is now a third-grader. The school also continues to monitor the progress of the four graduates of our primary school who now attend the fifth grade in the secondary school at the nearby village. We help them to do their homework, give them additional lessons and simply monitor their life at home because during their parents' regular drinking bouts the kids may be simply kicked out into the night. There are seven pre-school children who come to our school from the kindergarten to prepare for school. They are our future schoolchildren. The need for a primary school is estimated to last at the Davydovo village for another 11 years and that considering only the needs of the local population.

Because there are only a few children in our school we have an opportunity to deal with each individually, choosing and regulating the pace in which they master the curriculum and creating a soft atmosphere for their studies. Our parents and the nearby rural school have concluded an agreement on 'family education' and we teach our children as hired teachers. At the end of each term our children take exams on all major subjects in the public school to which we are attached.

In our school there are six teachers, graduates of universities in various disciplines, and one English language teacher comes once a week. All the teachers work for free. But there is a problem. Officially these people do not have this job recorded in their service book, and we could not find this form of work relations in any legal provisions. Theoretically these teachers are losing their qualification, although they do work and do it very effectively.

We are different from an ordinary school in that our school is Orthodox. Many of the present schoolchildren come from Orthodox families, and praying before classes and meals is an obligatory component of their life. All the children have come from our Orthodox kindergarten in which they were already introduced to Holy Scriptures, studied lives of saints, attended divine services and took communion. This work is continued in the school, but many new things are added. The day begins with a common morning prayer, abridged for the first-graders; those who wish - and there are no those who do not - can study additional subjects, such as Choir Singing and Basics of Orthodox Culture. The kids take an active part in preparing for and conducting celebrations on the Orthodox feast days. So, the relations in our school are those of a big and close family.

Our orphanage

The fourth of our social concerns is the orphanage for children who, as they say today, have found themselves in a difficult social situation. It was initiated in 2006 when a mother asked us to put up her child at the parish for a year. It was a Russian migrant family worn out by the red tape they had to go through in an attempt to obtain Russian citizenship. We agreed to accept him. Later we formalized our guardianship of another child, an orphan. By the end of the first school term we had already five children, all of different ages, from families with different problems, from different places. Today day we have only 7 children because of our restricted living conditions. There are two instructors working on shifts with the boys.

The life of the orphanage is inseparable from that of the parish. The small number of inmates makes it possible for us to create an almost family situation in the orphanage. We seek to raise the teenagers in a spirit of brotherhood, cooperation and self-dependence. Every one of them has a task in the church as a bell-ringer or an altar-boy or a choir singer. As is the custom in villages, there are also parish family tasks to bring firewood and water, to look after the cattle, to help with construction work and the like. In the nearest future we plan to give them joinery training at our parish joinery shop.

The orphanage inmates make confessions and take communion on a regular basis to the extent of their understanding of church life.

Because our parish has only a primary school while the orphanage inmates are senior pupils, they attend the secondary school in the nearby village of Ivanovskoy, in which the initiatives of Orthodox education have taken root. This school is directed by Vladimir Martyshin whose experience in introducing Orthodox initiatives in education has been well known for a long time in Moscow as well. At our Center of Traditional Culture, children study Russian folklore, Russian martial arts and learn to play accordion or balalaika. They have a song and dance group who participate in all parish celebrations and family concerts.

As of today, we have already had four school-leavers. They all study at universities. One of them, a student of the Yaroslavl Pedagogical University, works as a tutor in the boarding school in his spare time. We have had only boys in our boarding school so far but we plan to build a new facility and increase the number of children. Perhaps there will be girls as well.

Our Center of Traditional Culture

Speaking about the specific features of our educational work, I cannot pass by in silence the Center of Traditional Culture existing at our parish. Among its major aims was to raise the parish's culture by studying, preserving and handing down the best manifestations of Orthodox traditional rural culture.

The staff of the Center are people with higher education in ethnic music, pedagogy and arts. They work in several areas: research, education, culture, education, etc.

We in the Davydovo village of the Yaroslavl Region began our studies of traditional culture with creating a folk team called Uleima in 2003. The teenagers and youth in the team began their first folklore and ethnographic research expeditions in 2004. Three districts in the Yaroslavl regions have been researched and an archive of audio- and video-materials has been compiled since. The team has discovered and copied private archives and archives of various organizations engaged in folk research expeditions in the Yaroslavl Region.

These materials were put in the basis of educational practice used in the Orthodox kindergarten and the primary school and in additional lessons for teenagers at Davydovo and nearby villages. This has resulted in a revival of parish feasts, when after services parishioners could participate in family concerts and recitals, outdoor celebrations and games. A calendar cycle of such feasts has now been formed, which includes the Twelve Great Feasts and patronal festivals of our church.

The Center also studies the family traditions of the Russian people, such as folk wedding and baptismal rites and work customs such as 'suspenders' or mutual aid in various works. This knowledge is used in the life of the parish today, and this process involves an increasing number of villages and visitors. To encourage people to form their family traditions and to introduce them to the positive experience of other families is one of the tasks of the parish and the Center.

One of the ways of developing the musical skills of church choir singers is collective singing outside the liturgy. Folk songs and dances performed by youth and their invariable participation in celebrations and family concerts helps to create a living environment for them to master musical culture. This process is also very beneficial for children who can develop their musical experience in a natural musical environment.

To involve teenagers and youth in the church parish life is one of the tasks to be carried out in organizing their leisure time. To counterbalance today's uncontrolled way of the youth's pastime, the Center has propagated traditional versions of youth games and trained young people for them. The Center has found a way for sensitive and careful education of youth for the culture of relations with the opposite sex in the form of traditional evening parties at which young people should not only know how to sing and dance and to have a large repertoire but also to prepare folk clothing for them. That is, young people are taught not to 'consume' mass culture in a customary way but to use their own products. In this way they are educated for a creative and active attitude to life.

The Center's work to form Orthodox parish traditions has brought fruit as the parish celebrations now attract not only local villages but also people from Moscow, Yaroslavl and other cities. Teenagers and youth from near and far parishes come to join not only festive events but also divine services as altar-boys and choir singers. We see a generation of children who grow imbibing the Orthodox liturgical and parish traditions from an early age.

New areas of the Center's research work are awaiting their workers. The study of Yaroslavl traditional folk clothing will make it possible to open a workshop for sewing it. The revival of folk woodwork crafts will also give an opportunity for building a workshop for producing baskets, musical instruments, children's toys and other items.

I would also like to point out that through the efforts of the Center, the Yaroslavl Seminary, with the blessing of Archbishop Kirill, has introduced an experimental course on Traditional Folk Culture since this academic year.

Our rehabilitation center

The fifth concern of our social service, which is the most important and the most difficult today, is the work with 'special' children and adults. Under 'special' we understand those who are physically or mentally disabled because of various diseases, such as speech retardation, infantile cerebral paralysis, early childhood autism, Down's syndrome, etc. We have got to know the Moscow-based Center for Socio-Pedagogical Adaptation 'Raphael' directed by Valentina Zagryadskaya. Their children became the first guests of our summer camps in June 2006. Since that time, families with special children have come to us from Moscow, Podolsk, Yaroslavl, St. Petersburg, Rybinsk and Vorkuta every summer. Some of the guests should have been ranked among special adults long ago since the age of our guests vary from six to about forty. First we intended just to help visitors spend a summer in the fresh air. With time we have come to a deeper awareness of many problems experienced by families raising special children. We have realized that not all of them receive from the state the aid they need so much, and we asked ourselves: Who if not a parish of the Russian Orthodox Church ought to assume the care of those who, for such short a period of relations, have become almost relatives for us?

I will underscore that we with our small experience by no means claim to be experts in such a broad and complicated area as this. However, complying with requests from our children's mothers, we wish to share our personal impressions of the life in our camps together with special children and their parents. May be our observations will prove useful for somebody. I wish that they may be used by parishes which have never encountered such children. It seems to us that many rural parishes can well do what we do.

Organizing our first camp, we naively believed that all the disabled have the same needs and problems. How mistaken we were! Later we remembered and reflected for a whole year on particular episodes of our contacts with these people. Everyone who lived side by side with them has completely reconsidered such notions as norm, disable, disease, diagnosis, human being. Contacts with them have helped us to learn much about our own selves and our own shortcomings. We have also learnt about the attitude of our citizens to such people. It has turned out that in the subway, people look at them with disgust and hostility, and their mates can offend and even beat them… Their poor mums who take them to various development centers by public transportation have to bear this cross stoically. Indeed, taking them to classes several times a week with a returned trip for two or even three hours is something difficult to imagine.

First we were amazed at the mothers' behavior formed as it is by the conditions of urban life. A mother would pounce on a stranger in the defense of her child, be this stranger another such mother or any other child and would try to control her child by pulling him up and sometimes grasping his hands. The mums fancied they saw danger coming from everywhere. Their most frequent demands were 'don't go there, don't come here'. But in a village there are only fields, flowers, woods around and there is nowhere to run away. In a three or four days' time, the children would calm down; the manifestations of aggression would stop. Perhaps the difference is made by the changing beauty of the surrounding nature so different from the monotony of the city. Mums become less tense, and it is very important, for children do not feel as keenly as their relatives. It has turned out that for mothers the country life becomes a rehabilitation factor.

Having separated the mothers from their children for at least some time, we tried to involve children in our household system. Parents together with children from the orphanage and volunteers, both teenagers and adults, carried out the work they could to help run the camp. I will underscore that it was not a development technique but real involvement in a useful activity, such as piling the logs, cocking hey, taking care of the farm animals, working in the vegetable garden and at the construction site. In doing so, we tried to give children the work within their powers so that they may see the result of their efforts. It has turned out that, separated from their mothers, children become much calmer and more adequate and their behavior much more normal. And the mothers too, chained to their children elsewhere, in our camp could switch to another activity and, as one of the parents put it, 'could simply breathe out to breathe in fresh air'.

The families who have been to the camp more than once make its core. Upon their arrival, children need two or three days to adjust to our routine. It is useless to come for a couple of days or a week, for children and adults simply have no time to switch from the urban to the country and church rhythm. For this reason we stand for a long stay in the camp and dream of making it year-round.

The life in the camp is arranged in this way. In the morning we say the prayer rule in the refectory, then we have a breakfast, after which all scatter to their tasks. Each is offered a job within his or her powers. Some work for an hour, others for four; some work in pairs, others in groups. After that it is time for lunch followed by a rest and then back to the tasks again. Those who find it difficult can have a rest or a nap or a walk in the woods. They can also take drawing and needlework lessons. If necessary, our Center of Traditional Culture joins us with its traditional get-togethers and parties during which authentic folk songs and dances are performed. These lessons attract equally all children whatever their diagnosis may be.

In 2008, a specialist in hippotherapy, Masha Konstantinova, came to us for the first time. It became possible because we had three horses given us as a gift. It should be mentioned that hippotherapy in a camp is different from rehabilitation exercises in the city. Riding a horse in a circle in an urban situation for the sake of rehabilitation or sports is an occupation not always understandable and hence unattractive for a disabled person. In a village, gathering grass, taking away dung and cleaning horses are sensible efforts because one can see what they are done for. The efforts and work of a special child become understandable to him and he takes hippotherapy more intelligently, thus making it more effective.

In the evenings, the youth usually make a bonfire with songs or play football and volleyball, all mixing in. Though there were mess-ups first because children were involved in a game without consideration for their individual abilities and specific regimen. This neglect dissatisfied some mothers. This should be taken into account by those who think about organizing a summer camp at their parish. In the future we will try to make more homogenous groups.

The living conditions in our camp are not very comfortable as yet. The visitors stay in workmen shelters or in village houses or on the verandas of those houses or even in tents. There is an outdoor shower and a small bathhouse which work to capacity. After we installed a water supply tube the problem of washing was partly solved. We have ordinary country toilets and plastic cabins we received as a gift… Certainly, such conditions are not acceptable for all. There was a case when one family ran away the next day after their arrival because of the living conditions.

Volunteers are a special theme. They are mostly young people from the city, and before they get accustomed to our life they resemble 'impotent folk waiting for the moving of the water'. The urban comfort tends to enfeeble them. Many of our volunteers 'are tired of life', mentally instable and infantile. Behind them are titanic efforts to find a meaning in taking out the dustbin after the fifth reminder by the parents and heroic efforts to help mother broom two square meters of the kitchen floor. Nevertheless, as the experience of their work in the camp has shown, every young soul seeks to perform a feat, and a few days in the camp make a difference. In the camp, where they really get tired and realize that their work is necessary for special children, the teenager volunteers do not have to resort to artificial ways, such as putting earrings in the ear, to be elevated in their own eyes. So the special children, their mums and volunteers - all without exceptions leave the camp somewhat cured and charged for a pro-active life.

Among those who come to us are children from two orphanages in Myshkin near Yaroslavl and the village of Myshkino near Mozhaisk. They are our friends. These children also join us in living a country life.

Contacts with such a great number of new and different people are of a great benefit for village children, for there is no other way for them to broaden their horizon. For the children of our orphanage, just as for volunteers from among urban youth, contacts with special children and aid to them have proved to be a powerful rehabilitating factor. Seeing other people's really difficult conditions, teenagers forget their own imaginary miseries and infantile whims to come to a more mature worldview and stronger natural feeling of self-respect. For special children, in their turn, integration into a real and earnest life in an atmosphere of beneficial fellowship with other and their own mates becomes a good socialization factor.

Let me tell you about children-parents relations from the point of view of a priest. I would like to notice that all I say about it is not the opinion of the Church but my private opinion. First of all, I am far from making straightforward conclusions correlating a child's peculiarities with his parents' background because I realize that Divine Providence for each is of course a mystery revealed to very few.

Many families who come to us have gone through various rehabilitation centers which mostly use foreign methods. According to the director of the Institute for Correctional Pedagogy, N. Malofeyev, Western models of the rehabilitation of children with limited abilities, working effectively in other countries, are interesting and instructive but they are little productive on the Russian soil. The models of aid to disabled children are part and parcel of the history, culture, religion and economy of a country, the mentality of its population and their traditions and customs. It is senseless, if not harmful, to blindly copy alien models. N. Malofeyev views are shared by Archpriest Peter Kolomeytsev, who has been engaged for many years in correctional work with children with hearing disorders.

There are many popular stereotypes regarding special children. Some of them are wrong and a priest should be aware of them. For instance, it is believed that disabled children are 'poor and miserable' creatures who are unable of sinning. Sometimes a priest, in his human sympathy for a disabled one, would put the stole over him without asking him and read the absolution prayer over him without any hesitation. The experience of living side by side with special children in a village has shown that they are not 'angels' at all. They can be rude with their parents, have rows with them and blackmail their mothers in return for indulgence, while mothers spoil them and avoid calling these 'miserable ones' up to order. Initially our charges did not even think to ask for their mothers' forgiveness before taking communion. At the same time, experience has shown that if the above-mentioned attitude is rejected, most of our charges prove to be nice and absolutely normal and contrite children.

Why am I speaking about that? It is essential for a parent to understand what a special child is and what he or she is in the life of the family. When is the human personality born? A priest's experience of dealing with mothers of special children prompts us that the prenatal period in the life of a child makes a strong impact on his or her future. Today, a rare mother has a responsible attitude to the conception, carrying a pregnancy and the birth of a child. Equally rare are those who treat their disabled child as 'carrying the cross' in the Orthodox sense. For instance, a child suffers from all kinds of fears, not the usual ones we all feel, but so obsessive that he cannot overcome them on his own. A doctor prescribes a certain chemical aid, but with the cause of the fears not clear, the sickness persists. Talking to a priest, the parents recalled how the pregnancy was carried and remember that there was a situation of moral ill-being. There were doubts as to 'bear or not' and thoughts about getting rid of the foetus. I should think even a criminal sitting in a solitary cell and awaiting execution feels better, for as an adult he normally understands for what he is punished. And how a child feels when his life begins with such an experience? Sometimes it happens so that parents think it is not the time to have a baby and live a very thoughtless life. During the pregnancy both the man and the woman feel themselves 'future' parents at best while already being such. They do not think that the soul of a small human being, 18 or 20 years younger than they are, is already with them from the moment of the conception - the soul, speaking in the church language, granted to them by the Lord so that they may raise it for life eternal.

There are parents who seek contacts with some unknown secret forces. What may be simpler than to ask any priest and he would tell them much about the ways and tasks of these 'forces', the harm they have done to the human race not for one thousand years.

Unfortunately, the years of godlessness in our country have led to the situation where many treat marriage, themselves and each other and many things in general without love, in a consumerist way. This attitude is applied to the human being in general. It is an attitude to the human being as a certain biological mechanism which can be made, broken, repaired and, if necessary, put out of the way. If the human being is a 'machine', it can be copied and, if a defect is discovered, utilized. And what is to be done with the immortal soul?

Regrettably, many medical doctors, psychologists and pedagogues with whom the mothers of our children happened to encounter also consciously or unconsciously treat special children as mechanisms, if they are not believers. Nobody has explained them that a human being has, along with the body, the spirit. I wonder whether many of them know about the woman by name of Matrona, disabled from childhood. What could have awaited her in her family had her parents not been believers? We believe some psycho-neurological nursing home awaited her. Fortunately, her parents were Orthodox, and little Matrona used from her early childhood to stand for long at church services. She lived a long and fruitful life and relieved the suffering of hundreds of people. And today, appealing in prayer to the Blessed Matrona of Moscow, many are healed.

The realm of the spirit is an important component of human life. The Russian Orthodox Church has traditionally dealt with it. The work in the domain of the spirit is the most important feature of our camps, which complements the work of doctors, psychologists, correctional teachers and other specialists.

Most of the parents with special children are people who have not been initiated to the Church. Thanks to a relatively small load of work to be carried out by a village church, families, during their stay in the camp, can regularly participate in the liturgical life and take communion frequently. They have an opportunity for talking with a priest for a long time and in a peaceful situation, for looking deeper into themselves, their moral problems and the questions of faith and for making longer confessions. And both parents and children have an opportunity for solving many of their spiritual problems.

It is difficult for families with disabled children to come to church in the city. Normally, there are too many people, and disabled children feel discomfort. Moreover, they often make noise during the service. As a result, some of them stop coming to church altogether, which certainly does not have the best impact on their spiritual condition. Becoming accustomed to the surrounding in our village church, our children keep quiet during services and sometimes you can see that while keeping silent they inwardly participate in the liturgy deeply and with all their hearts. Some of them, if they wish and can, are invited to an active participation in the service. I have noticed that after communion, many children including aggressive autists are capable of calming down, for a short time though, but without 'chemistry'.

What conclusions have we made for ourselves? Summer camps for children with limited abilities can have various organizational forms. More often than not, they are intended for health promotion and entertainment with the use of various specialists and therapeutic exercises, sports and music. Without rejecting a possible diversity, we, after the five years of our work, have come to the conclusion that the direction we have chosen is beneficial. Our summer camp has its distinctions we would like to preserve and develop in the future. Actually, we, just as any other church parish, form a distinctive family. Just as in any family, we have communication problems but through joint efforts we seek maintain sincere, friendly, benevolent and tolerant relations between all. Even quarrels, without which we cannot go in our everyday life, are family-like. Just as in any family, there are many tasks which unite us. Each - a child and an adult, a skilled and unskilled one, has a task within his or her depth. The most important thing is that we seek to solve the problems of each member of the community in a family-like way. At the same time, church life, confession and communion are the main source of strength for this way of life. Accepting special children in our parish, we do not seek to substitute specialists whose task is to accompany children in our camp professionally. We all, members of a community, volunteers, special children and their parents, live side by side, sharing the entire range of village chores and joys.

In conclusion I would like to point out that science and the Church complement each other in the care of children with limited abilities. Clergy, psychologists, teachers and other specialists should meet more often and find forms of cooperation. Indeed, just as a priest sometimes finds it difficult to understand without an appropriate education what a specialist says, so a specialist not initiated in the Church finds it difficult to make a judgement about the spiritual interpretation of a situation. We should find a common language in tolerant, considerate and trustful relations with each other. Joint seminars held in the Institute of Correctional Pedagogy since 2008 are very timely. As a student of this seminar, I have received a great deal of useful and interesting information. I would like to express tremendous gratitude to the Institute's staff who have found appropriate forms of presenting the results of scientific research which are quite intelligible for a lay person. I wish that dioceses of our Church may unite their efforts with authoritative institutes engaged in problems of families with special children. I also wish that jurists may translate the existing problems of these families into a language intelligible for the legislator, and the state may improve the legislation in the interests of disabled children and their families.

Our functionaries should first of all examine the interesting experience of attitude to children with limited abilities gained not abroad but in the Russian heartland where this experience has been accumulated for a long time to become our own, heartfelt and dear, hence the most beneficial for the people of our Motherland.

We invite to cooperation all those who wish to participate in our God-pleasing cause.

Our website: http://davydovo-hram.ru/

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