October 14, 2007
We have just returned from 15 busy, productive days and nights in St. Petersburg, Russia. We are the only project in the US helping blind students in Russia.
We met with dozens of people, some whom we knew earlier and many for the first time. Our effort to help blind people puts us in touch with people who become new friends. We were told the same thing by many different people--even if you don't have anything to bring us materially, please stay in touch with us. We continue to build ongoing relationships in the spirit of Svetlana's father.
We delivered 5 used desktop computers and 2 notebook computers that Svetlana got from MIT, 2 Perkins Braillers and paper (donated by Howe Press at Perkins), 2 cassette recorders, art materials to a blind artist, creative toys for Waldorf-trained teachers who work with blind children and for a teacher starting a new kindergarten of blind students in southern Russia, money to a deaf-blind consultant in Moscow and to help transport 11 computer monitors to blind users around St. Petersburg. We introduced and connected people to each other across the city--a number of people said it was surprising that people in Boston could do this!
We had a party for blind and sighted people at the apartment, filled with singing, toasts, and great humor.
For the three Americans, we had the assistance of 5 skilled and helpful interpreters and guides at different points during our visit!
Any assistance we provide for blind people in Russia goes directly to people whom we've met personally.
We identified just over 1000 blind and severely vision-impaired people in St. Petersburg (category 1 and category 2 invalids) who are connected to 5 groups we're focusing on. They are a boarding school/orphanage with more than 280 students, a rehabilitation center that does employment and life-skills training for over 140 people, the graduates network of the rehabilitation center, an arts therapy group that is working with 80 blind youngsters, and a group of 411 blind "intellectual workers," including 150 blind university students.
We are also helping a master typhlo-pedagogue, a teacher specializing in blind education, to whom we have given a monthly stipend for two years to help with expenses for materials, teaching tools, and toys for her class in St. Petersburg. She has just taken a new job setting up the first kindergarten for blind children in a town in southern Russia, and we will continue to help her. Her salary is less than USD$200 (two hundred)/month.
We also assist a deaf-blind man in Moscow who helps other deaf-blind people use computers.
We have people in St. Petersburg and Moscow who help us--computer specialists who configure computers, drivers who pick things up at the airport and deliver them, people who can disburse money, and so on.
Some of the things we did--
We plan to help provide New Year gifts and treats to several hundred blind students. 150 blind students in higher education institutes need voice recorders so they can take notes in class and several hundred people with serious visual impairment need magnifiers.
All this costs money. The fund's bank account is low.
We also need in-kind assistance, such as frequent flyer miles, white canes, Braille devices, toys, putting us in touch with people who will take things to St. Petersburg, and invitations to speak to groups.
Thank you for your support. We are glad to hear from you.