For the seventh year running, we are delighted to be nominated as Russia’s Leading Travel Agent, at the World Travel Awards.
The World Travel Awards are very prestigious; they are known as the Oscars of the travel industry. That’s why this is a huge honour for everyone within the company, and we would love it if you could help us win the title for the fifth time!
Time flies by for us! And we grow and we develop. As we are very passionate about Russia and the Russian people, we would like to do our bit for this incredible country. This year, as a part of our World Travel Awards campaign, we will be supporting a Russian charity, the Life Route, which helps disabled people in Russia get one-to-one support and raises the awareness of adults’ mental issues. They are doing a very important job, and we are happy to contribute in the Life Route’s valuable efforts.
Therefore, this year, for every vote we receive from our World Travel Awards page, we will donate to the Life Route.
The Director of the Life Route charity Ivan Rozhansky kindly agreed to speak to us about their mission, programms and challenges.
Small charity. Big plans.
Can you give us a quick overview of what the Life Route does?
We focus on providing aid to disabled adults, and people with mental disorders (autism, genetic syndrome, organic lesions of CNS, etc.), those who live with their families, not in the care homes, within Moscow. We have also started helping people with mental disabilities living in psycho-neurological boarding schools.
Normally, their life in Russia is confined within four walls. To break this rule, the Life Route organises training in practical applications, such as joinery, pottery etc., and various recreation programs. This enables the participants to engage more socially and learn skills that would never normally be offered to them. Our volunteers work with groups of disabled people to give them social skills and entertain them, thus, give their parents a chance to have a break from everyday hardworking routine.
What programs do you implement?
We have several ongoing programs intended to improve the quality of life for people with mental disorders, and their relatives (who care for them). We are engaged in the organisation of daily employment, permanent employment and recreation. An adult, despite mental and physical disorders, wants to benefit others, to do something with meaning, to see the result of his work. The lack of it leads to a loss of self-respect, meaning of life, a life joy.
We arrange their participation in hand-made production of toys, ceramic and wooden souvenirs etc. and in recreation programs that include physical exercises, art therapy, walks in the city.
We also help and assist families in crisis situations, for example, when the guardian gets ill and cannot support the mentee for a period of time, or just to give a break to a family from everyday care of members with disabilities.
You mentioned that you help people to find employment. What kind of employment are you able to find?
We have two workshops that provide jobs for people with mental disorders. With assistance of educators, craftsmen, painters they can participate in producing toys, wooden and ceramic souvenirs, items from cardboard, felt and bast.
We also seek to ensure that people with disabilities can work in regular companies. It means that we need to arrange the escorts, for example, to help them to get to workplaces. And of course, it is necessary that those around them should not be afraid фand stand aside of them.
Are there many foundations in Russia working in a similar area?
Only a few charities are working with adults with mental disabilities. For example, in Moscow, there are several volunteer organizations, and a charity called ‘Вверх ’ (‘Up’). There are similar projects in different regions of Russia (Pskov, Vladimir), and Moscow, in some way, is still behind the regions. But over time, there are more organizations and volunteer movements dealing with the problems of adults with mental disorders coming up.
How many people have received help from you?
This year, 98 people participated in our programs. More than 100 received consultation assistance (psychological, informational, legal).
Step by step
What challenges do you face as a charity?
First of all, lack of funding to implement our programs all the time. We are also facing with a shortage of work facilities and a high rental cost. But, on the good side, this year we have grown very much, including our reputation and brand recognition.
Which trends in the charity sector in Russia can you highlight?
Charity becomes a part of our life, and more people get involved in it. TV and social media mention those, who are in more difficult life situation, encouraging a more positive attitude to disability, and help to raise funds for them. It is still much harder to collect money for adults than for children, but this is possible! Unfortunately, one of the negative trends is the fraudsters and fake philanthropic foundations that bring discredit to charity in general.
How has the attitude to people with disabilities changed over the last few years?
The attitude changes, though, very gradually. It is already indecent to discriminate a disabled person, as used to happen in public places recently. Many public services (from ramps to employment for disabled people) do not seem to be logical yet, but some steps toward taking people with disabilities out of their four walls are being done!
And yes, it's one of our tasks to change attitudes, make a man with mental disability not scary or dangerous to society, make him more understandable, probably. We believe that public fear starts from lack of awareness, we want to tell more good stories, to be more enlightened about the possibilities of our wards so that they are not afraid to be treated with understanding. And that families where there are little children with disabilities know that everything can be normal in the future! Encourage them not to hide their children, not abandon them, demonstrating that they could get help, education, communication and support.
Do you have many volunteers working with you?
We do have many volunteers. Most of the projects are implemented by their forces (under the guidance of specialists). Most volunteers are of the age of those who they help, 20-35 year old. Some of them are going to link their professional activities to therapeutic pedagogy, psychology and psychiatry. Most have nothing to do with the topic, but simply want to be useful. Among our volunteers there are musicians, philologists, programmers, actors and accountants. We also have ‘special volunteers’- people with additional needs who lack communication and are happy to be helpful.
How to get in touch
How else can people help you?
As mentioned above, we are always short with funds to fulfil and expand our projects. The best help for us is a small but regular donation through our website www.liferoute.org.
People can also come to volunteer with us, just write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. People are welcome to provide us with an equipment, materials, even food products for one of our programs. You can buy products made by our mentees at charity fairs. Some of the items can be purchased in gift tents at VDNKh in Moscow. And we are constantly searching for new premises for our projects and appreciate any help with this.
We thank Ivan for answering our questions!
To find out more about the Life Route charity, please visit their website (English version) or follow them in Facebook .
‘Special Ceramics’ workshop at VDNKh has a Facebook page.