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Special Assistance

Our “special assistance” efforts began in January 1991 with the making of arrangements for an American medical doctor and a nurse, Wayne and Lori Tilson, to review Vladimir's healthcare needs and report back to their colleagues in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. This helped initiate a substantial ongoing Sister Cities' medical assistance program.

The American Home’s first major project involved getting two very nice sets of playground equipment donated, shipped to Vladimir, and assembled at an orphanage and a boarding school for deaf children in the fall of 1993. [link to the playground equipment articles--below] We have continued to assist the orphanage—with the help of others. For example, one of the regular “criminal justice” tour groups delivered a substantial number of high quality donated children’s shoes, and a “tourism development” group presented the kids (at the orphanage staff’s request) with eight bicycles and tricycles. We have also repaired the playground equipment when local vandals have damaged it. Two different articles on the donated playground equipment appeared in local Vladimir papers, and translations can be read here and here.

Along with the tourism development team, in the summer of 2004 we arranged for two recreation specialists to go to Vladimir to assess the situation. Dr. Barbara Schlatter (ISU) and Dr. Marta Moorman (University of Nebraska at Kearny) obtained university grants to cover their travel expenses and to purchase some recreation equipment. In addition to surveying local recreation needs, they introduced “disk golf,” made a contribution of “holds” to the local wall climbing program, and gave some skateboards and rollerblades to a local club. On returning to the States a funding request for a skatepark was submitted to the Tony Hawk Foundation. Unfortunately, all the available Foundation funds were committed to American projects.

We are continuing to look for ways to make a contribution in this area.  Among other things, as Dr. Schlatter and Dr. Moorman’s initial report noted, a well-developed summer recreation program can help keep teenagers in particular  productively occupied. This was followed in 2006 by a collaborative report by Schlatter, Moorman, and Yelena Bychkovskikh, of the Vladimir City Administration, which addressed the issue in greater depth.

In 2005 we arranged for an ISU College of Nursing faculty member to review the Vladimir Regional Children's Trauma Hospital's needs and make recommendations to a group in California that was interested in providing assistance. Along the way we have sent donated medical equipment and medical supplies with tour groups; we have helped guide through Russian Customs other donated medical shipments; and, especially during the initial period after the collapse of the Soviet system, we delivered a variety of medications and other items to individuals and organizations.

When tour group participants — and others — have wanted to provide financial assistance, we’ve identified productive ways to put their aid to work — and/or arranged for the transfer of the funds to Vladimir. For example, one donor provided the funds to purchase a computer and a copier for the Youth Health and Education Center. This organization works very hard — with very limited resources — to help troubled teenagers, their parents, teachers, and school administrators. When the staff was told they were getting this equipment they reportedly broke into a spontaneous cheer.

Early on, when “bureaucratic turmoil” could be especially unpredictable, we were able to assist with several adoptions. The positive reputation of the American Home can sometimes help “move things along.”

The orphanage staff requested “play dough” that didn’t stick or stain.
We were able to facilitate the donation of Play Clay, which was just what they wanted!

In addition to arranging for the transfer of funds meant to assist individuals and organizations, we regularly help with communication problems, and provide “logistical support,” for example, loaning visiting specialists and educators mobile phones.

I have traveled to Russia many times in connection with work, either to conduct research or participate in student/faculty exchanges, and the people at the American Home have been extremely helpful. They have helped me obtain letters of invitation, arranged home stays and transportation, and even loaned me a mobile phone—which was invaluable because I tend to get lost easily!

Last May (2009) was the first exchange that my nursing program had with the program in Vladimir. I traveled with two nursing students, and we stayed with different families. It was wonderful to have the use of phones from the American Home so that we could stay in contact, thus allowing me to update them on schedule changes and transportation. And obviously, having the phone made it easier for my colleagues at the Medical College in Vladimir to contact me!

Not only have the staff at the American Home helped facilitate my travel, they also have offered kindness and hospitality—they are ever-ready with a cup of hot tea and dish of chocolates. They are truly wonderful. I don’t know what I would have done without them!!

~ Wendy Woith, PhD, RN

Beginning in 2009, we started helping a chess club In Bloomington-Normal link up with chess clubs in Vladimir and organize Internet tournaments. (When one Russian team didn't have the necessary Internet connection, we arranged for them to play the match at the American Home.)  In general, when possible, we attempt to use our experience, contacts, reputation, and material resources to get things done ourselves and to help others provide significant assistance. See, for example, the essay by Norm Manzer concerning his church’s efforts to provide “transitional assistance” to older orphans.

We've even managed to be of some assistance in Moscow.  When one of the tour groups visited the very sobering GULAG Museum in Moscow, they noted that their one brochure was available only in Russian.  When he returned to Vladimir after seeing the tour group off at the airport, Dr. Pope took on the task of translating the brochure's interesting text into English—with the help of several of the AH’s Russian staff. We were informed that our translation was used—until they switched to a new brochure.

(We regularly translate between Russian and English information and documents for a variety of not-for-profit organizations — and for individuals. We also translate — for a reasonable fee — things like restaurant menus, and we provide editing services. Regarding the latter, we hope that as things progress our editing services will be taken advantage of more frequently. Good quality English text — in books and other written documents — will have multiple benefits.)

Finally, the American Home periodically makes financial contributions to organizations that the AH staff knows will put the assistance to good use.

Our motto: Just because we can’t do everything, doesn’t mean that we can’t at least help get some worthwhile things done.

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