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Real Russia interview ThePromise

Discover how ThePromise help Russia's children

We have spoken a little about the ThePromise before, but to give you a better idea of who they are, and what they do, we thought we would get in touch with some questions. Who is better placed to tell you about ThePromise than ThePromise themselves after all.

To discover their answers to our questions read on!


Can you give us a quick overview of what ThePromise does?

ThePromise works to improve the lives of disabled children in Russia by promoting a system of support (Portage) for disabled children in partnership with families and carers, and by encouraging a more positive attitude to disability.

Our pioneering work focuses on training and supporting teams of Portage workers in the community, working with families with disabled children in their own homes and rehabilitation centres.

What inspired the charities founders to help disabled children in Russia?

Sarah Settelen, the founder of ThePromise, made a promise to her profoundly disabled daughter Ellie, shortly after she died in January 2000. She promised Ellie that her cherished short life would not be in vain and that other children in the world, many of them hidden or silenced, would be heard, celebrated and supported.

After volunteering in a Russian orphanage for children with disabilities in the summer of 2002, Sarah made a pledge to the children she met that she would do whatever she could to improve their chances of a future.

Child supported by ThePromise

What areas in Russia do you cover?

ThePromise now works in Ryazan, the city where the original Portage Projects were setup, as well as Moscow, Taganrog and excitingly are about to support a new project in the city of Voronezh.

What services are you able to provide to the children?

We enable Portage to be provided to disabled children on a one to one basis, allowing them to learn and develop essential skills.  We also provide some specialist advice around Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech and Language Therapy from volunteers based in the UK.

How are these services contributing to improving the lives of the children you work with?

Portage provides the children with opportunities to learn, communicate and develop important skills. This in turn opens up new avenues such as feeding themselves, communicating with others, playing, making friends and even going to school.

Could you describe what ‘Portage’ is, how it helps to improve the lives of the children and how it differs to traditional teaching methods?

Portage is a system of one to one early childhood education used successfully with disabled children in many parts of the world.  It utilises what we know about ‘normal’ development and breaks every stage down into small achievable steps. The Portage worker devises specific activities and games for the children, and family or carer (in the case of the children in orphanages), to practise together which will focus on the skill the child is trying to achieve. Over time, the children make significant developmental gains.

Child being helped by ThePromise

How many children and parents have you helped so far and what does that mean to your charity?

ThePromise has worked directly with over 300 children and families or carers.  We have also trained over 350 students, specialists and carers to become Portage workers, and many organisations who have gone on to set up their own Portage services.  Little by little we plan to spread the word about the life-changing power of Portage to groups and organisations throughout Russia.

How do you measure success in terms of the impact your charity has on the children’s development, and on their everyday lives.

Many of the children and families we work with tell us that without Portage and the support from their Portage worker they could not imagine what their life would be like.  For example, a child who can feed themselves at meal times can join in with the rest of the family at mealtimes rather than having to reply on a parent feeding them. Children are learning to walk and so are no longer reliant on someone passing them the toy they want.

Before Portage, families simply wouldn’t leave the house, they wouldn’t feel able or confident enough to take their child to the park, to the shop or to a nursery.  But with the skills and confidence Portage gives the children and parents, they are able to access services and enjoy life as a family.

What challenges do you face as a charity?

We face similar challenges to lots of charities in this day and age. We rely heavily on the generosity of our supporters to help us fund the projects we are supporting, and new projects that we want to help get started.  We are very aware that our supporters and being asked by many charities to donate their hard earned money and we try to be as sensitive and grateful as possible.  We hold a number of events throughout the year in order to offer people something enjoyable while at the same time raising money for our work in Russia.  We work very closely with our partner organisation in Russia and together we raise money for our programmes from donors in both the UK and Russia.

How can people find out more about The Promise?

Our website www.thepromise.org.uk is probably the best place to start but people are very welcome to email jo.pritchard@thepromise.org.uk for information, updates and plans for events.

How can people keep up to date about your current initiatives?

Details of our work, new projects and events can be found on our website www.thepromise.org.uk. We are also on Facebook and Twitter, please like or follow our pages to see what’s going on. We have a large email database to which we send quarterly newsletters.  To join our database simply email jo.pritchard@thepromise.org.uk.

Do you have any events that people can take part in coming up?

Yes, on Friday 2nd October we are holding an 80’s Boat Party in Kingston-upon-Thames.  We would love people to join us for this leisurely evening cruise along the river, enjoy traditional Fish & Chips delivered fresh to the boat and dance the night away to some 80’s classics.  There will be a bar and plenty of chances to win great prizes in the raffle.  Tickets are just £40 and available by emailing jo.pritchard@thepromise.org.uk.

We have been very lucky to be invited by Westminster Russia Forum to be a the charity of the evening at their upcoming Art Exhibition and drinks reception on Thursday 15th October, details can be found at http://www.westminster-russia.org.uk/#!events/cfvg.

We are also very excited to be taking part in the Brandenburg Concert Season for the first time this year. On Saturday 14th November we will be at St Giles-in-the-Fields, enjoying ‘A Choral Celebration’ as part of this wonderful Autumn Series. There is the option of an hours walking tour of the area and the church before the concert, so please get in touch with Jo at jo.pritchard@thepromise.org.uk for further details – we would love to see people there on the night.

How else can people help The Promise?

As mentioned above funds to enable us to support and expand our projects are always needed. Coming to our events, taking part in a sponsored event of their own to raise money for us or becoming an Angel (our regular givers) are all amazing ways people can help us.  Just £30 a month provides Portage to a child and their family.  There are lots of other ways on our website, including recycling print cartridges and registering with EasyFundraising so that every time you shop online ThePromise will receive a donation.

We are also always looking to work with corporate sponsors and can provide information on this.


And don’t forget, they have a JustGiving page set up at https://www.justgiving.com/thepromise/donate.

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