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Kitezh (a community of foster families in Russia). Photo 2010
The Happy Child Charitable Organization is creating an initiative to develop a village settlement of foster families and children’s homes of a family type for the raising of both biological and foster children in a holistic community setting. Children with special needs will be included. The village is to be located in Zaporozhye Province.
We do not plan to reinvent the wheel but will make use, first and foremost, of the general principles of “ecosettlement,”, exemplified in the Russian community Kitezh. (The Kitezh website has English pages. If you read Russian, check out my Ðåïîðòàæ î ìîåé ïîåçäêå â Êèòåæ, (“Report of My Trip to Kitezh” of 2010)).
A children’s village will serve as an alternative to warehousing children in state-run internats (orphanages). Foster families living together in the same rural environment will enable parents to help each other nurture and educate children.
As is well known, many foster children lag significantly behind their peers in intellectual and psychological development. Consequently, regular school becomes a senseless waste of time for them. In a children’s village, thanks to the efforts of the parents working together, an individualized approach to instruction for such children becomes possible.
Contact with nature—simple physical work on the land and acquiring related skills—forms an important positive factor in children’s formation and in the lives of adults in the community. In this way the children will spend more time in positive activity and not lose themselves in the virtual reality of computers or fall into crime.
However, work on the land does not mean complete disregard for technology and other social goods: both children and adults will make active use of computers, Internet, and similar resources for human benefit.
In the children’s village progressive ecological practices will take root: energy conservation, ecologically clean (organic) farming, recycling and cleaning up of wastes.
One of the distinctive features of the village will be the care of children with special needs. Up to now, most such children end up in special orphanages for the disabled that lack any and all rehabilitative therapies and prospects for fulfilled adult life. Many families, we believe, will be willing to take on the task of raising children with special needs.
In the children’s village sharing of resources is possible, for example, cooperative use of electronics and computers, access to the Internet, children’s playgrounds and athletic fields, expensive instruments and tools, auto transport, and also mutual help with construction.
Establishing a children’s community in a rural setting will spur positively the development of neighboring villages, since trained teachers, engineers, doctors will reside in the settlement, new technologies will take root, visitors will come including volunteers from Ukraine and other countries, and “green tourism” may be developed.
Finally, the children’s village will give a model, expressed in the words of one psychologist, “for a simple, normal life” in harmony with nature and self.
Life lived in holistic, harmonious relationship with self and nature.
A desire to be a blessing to people and to all living creatures, embodied in charitable activities.
Respect for the private life of each family and, at the same time, an understanding for the interests of the entire community.
Respect for the plant and animal world, ecology-sensitive upbringing.
Non-violence toward both persons and animals. Vegetarianism is welcome but not required. The raising of animals for meat production is not permitted.
Holistic spiritual, intellectual, and physical development of the members of the community.
Tolerance of the opinion of other persons and toward different religions (except for destructive trends like Satanism). Complementarity of religions, not exclusivity.
Preference for spiritual values over material.
Constant development of the creative and cognitive potential of all of the members of the community.
Openness toward the world outside.
first home in the Children's Village (summer 2015)
Two foster families - the first inhabitants of the children's village (January 2016)
Holistic approach to intellectual, physical, and spiritual development of both foster and biological children.
Life for both children and adults in harmony with nature, society, and in concord with others.
Raising children according to personal example: adults consciously refrain from consumption of alcohol, smoking, drugs, obscenity, and physical or mental violence.
Observance of the rights of children in accordance with the UN Convention on Children’s Rights.
Professional approach to the problems of foster/adopted children and children with special needs.
Non-coercive initiation of children to work (farm, shops, construction).
Education of children to a healthy style of living following adults’ example—morning exercise, sports groups, hikes, calisthenics.
Introduction of children to charitable activity; help for neighbors; participation in social charity campaigns, volunteer work, and the like.
Democratic approach to managing community life (community council).
Effective educational system; instruction of children in small groups; whole-person development.
Principal task: to teach children to think, to take pleasure in new learning, to see the true goals of education. At the same time, the children should have the opportunity to leave the community after completing school and to have the chance to enroll in a university or another educational institution.
Parents help one another in teaching the children (e.g., you know English or understand auto mechanics—you can teach your child and a neighbor).
Summer in the Children's Village
The community aims to provide its own basic food products (environmentally clean). At the same time, farming operations should not hinder the adults from giving sufficient attention to the upbringing of children, particularly of orphans and children with special needs.
One of the sources of financial support for the community may be state benefits for foster families and compensation for village teachers, doctors (it is assumed that several adults will be teachers).
Also assumed is the use of effective and environmentally friendly methods of agricultural production.
Economical use of natural resources, energy-saving technologies, minimal pollution of the surrounding environment, reduction in the consumption of non-necessities will lead to a reduced expenses for the residents of the community.
Economizing measures enable greater resources to be applied to the educational program, creative activities, and to construction.
Construction of homes of original architectural design and of varied national styles will promote the development of “green tourism.
According to our calculations, developing a village of 25 families and ensuring financial independence of the community, would require around 50 hectares of land. Of that, approximately three hectares will go toward the settlement itself, and the remaining plot will be utilized for farming purposes.
Important considerations in the choice of the land are:
- Environmentally clean area
- Accessibility of potable water and a pond for bathing and irrigation
- Land located in Zaporozhye Oblast (Province)
- Accessibility or proximity to utilities such as gas, water, and roads
- Reasonable distance from a citó or regional center
- Possibility of acquiring land for expanding the settlement in the future
- Low likelihood of natural catastrophes (flooding, landslides, mosquitoes)
- Favorable topography (mild southern slope, absence of gullies and rocks)
- Lack of traffic noise or industrial noise pollution
- Proximity to a rural town with a school and shops
- Scenic view; a beautiful place to spend leisure hours near the settlement site
- Positive relationship with the local populace and regional authorities.
The main structures on the settlement grounds:
1. Club or community building (school, cafeteria, meeting room, clinic)
2. Homes of foster families
3. Summer house for the community
4. Garages and workshops
5. Athletic fields, pool
6. Dairy farm and stable
7. Waste treatment and pump station.
Number of families in the settlement
From 7 to 25 families amounting to a village population consisting in 30 to 90 persons. (a greater number of inhabitants makes it difficult to maintain a sense of close-knit community.)
Any construction on settlement land will belong to the community (a non-profit organization) and may not be offered for sale or trade.
Rules for enrolling a family in the community
1. Membership in the community may be granted for a family of adoptive parents, parent guardians, foster parents, or parent mentors of a family-type home.
2. With provisory admission to the community, housing (a house or part of a house), providing temporary residence free of charge, may be granted to a family with no fewer than two orphan children or a minimum of one special needs child (one having a disability).
3. Ownership of housing resides with the NGO “Children’s Village.”
4. A foster family (FF) retains the right of ownership of the living space in which it has lived up to the point of acceptance into the community, and the foster family may dispose of such property at its discretion.
5. A foster family has the right to continue living in the settlement until such time as all of the children are grown and have completed their education (up to age 23). After that, the foster family may either take on new children or vacate the housing for another family having foster children not yet grown.
6. In a few cases of families whose children are grown, where one or another of the parents has made a significant contribution to the life of the community (teaching, medical activity, farming, etc.), at the decision of the community council and with the agreement of the supervisory board of the NGO “Children’s Village, such a family may receive permission to continue living in a community home.
7. If the community council and the supervisory council concur, citizens not meeting the standard requirement for admission to the community, but who nonetheless bring a special benefit to the community, may receive rent-free housing in the village, or, using their own funds, undertake construction of a house on community land or close to it.
1. Selection and purchase/lease of a parcel of land
2. Project planning for the children’s village (plan of the buildings and utilities)
3. Arranging for communications, construction of a guest house
4. Construction of a community center and homes for the first families
5. Construction of an administrative building
6. Selection and settlement of the first foster families
7. Construction of homes for new families and further development of the infrastructure
8. Active development of the settlement in all directions.
Tentatively, under ideal conditions, the first families will be able to settle in the village in three years after the start of the project.
Here is the first and second houses :
"Happy home -3" - January 2016
"Happy home -3" - January 2016
"Happy home -4" - June 2015
"Happy home -5" - february 2017
The concert for the residents of the children's village and Ukrainka - Fall 2015
If our ideas resonate with you, then you are welcome to take part in realizing the project:
1. You may wish to offer your preference as to the geographic location of the village site (specify the raion [region] in Zaporozhye Oblast and the neighboring population center; describe the distinctive features of the site relative to our criteria).
2. You may help organizationally with the selection of the plot of land.
3. You may help financially at every stage of the project—selection and purchase of the land, construction, communications.
4. Express constructive suggestions related to our concept of the children’s village, or share experience you may have.
5. Report your desire to become an active participant, and, where possible, a future resident of the village. (Please share in writing something about yourself—a short vita—and something about your motives.)
Please get in touch with us for further sharing! (Click on the English page, if you do not know Russian.)
You may also subscribe to our Google e-newsletter for contact with the initiative group on creating the village, or click on ÂÊîíòàêòe group (This is a social networking site in Russian.)