Real Russia Blog

Real Russia interview ThePromise

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 is probably the best place to start but people are very welcome to email 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 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

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

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!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 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

Real Russia Blog

World Travel Awards 2015: The Result!

World Travel Awards 2015: The Result!

How did Real Russia fare in the 2015 World Travel Awards?

Thank you!

Year on year our competitors at the World Travel Awards get better and better, and 2015 was no different. So we would like to thank you for choosing Real Russia and for voting for us this year; we really do appreciate all of your support. Over the next 12 months and beyond, our team are determined to continue working hard; repaying the faith that you have shown.

Now on to the result … (click on the video for added effect!)

We won!

Real Russia - Russia's Leading Travel Agency 2015

We are dlighted to say that your incredible support has again seen us emerge victorious as Russias Leading Travel Agent. This is the third year in succession we have had the honour of being presented with this award, which is unprecedented.

World Travel Awards Tropy, Russia's Leading Travel Agency 2015 - Real Russia

The aiport wasn't too pleased about this sitting in my hand luggage – it's huge!

2016 will be the 100th anniversary of the Trans-Siberians completion, so this is a fantastic way to start a year celebrating everything that is good about Russia and the Trans-Siberian.

How will we be celebrating you ask? Keep your eyes fixed on our website and social media channels to find out in the coming weeks and months.

Anyway, back to the World Travel Awards…

A World Travel Awards Diary

I was lucky enough to attend the World Travel Awards ceremony this year in Sardinia, Italy, so I thought I would write a few words about the ceremony itself to give you an idea of what it is like.

First off, I can hardly think of a better venue to celebrate all that is good about the travel industry; except maybe the Trans-Siberian itself, but I am biased and determined to spread the Trans-Siberian word! It is just a shame that the event itself took place indoors as, on the Mediterranean coast, a night under the stars would have been marvellous.

The venue itself, the Forte Village Resort was lovely, and expansive; all the guests were ferried about in small golf buggy/bus type contraptions. The cocktail reception was held around the pool area, which would have been nice in and of itself, but with some very colourful parrots flying around overhead, it was a great start to the evening.

The main event was inside, in a standard dining room all dressed, and lit, to impress. I feel they may have overdone it a little though with the blue lighting, it had the effect of making the food look very strange indeed, a shame given the time that had obviously been spent preparing it all; thankfully it tasted great.

World Travel Awards 2015 Table Centrepiece - Real Russia

The lovely centrepiece, complete with excessive blue mood lighting!

The evening is quite an involved affair, with awards being offered for many categories, from best boutique hotel to best airport. For this reason there were no speeches (thankfully), just a short time to have a photo taken with the host, before being moved on. While this sounds monotonous, it actually isn't as throughout the evening short videos were shown of some of the luxury resorts being celebrated, and they all looked very inviting; I think I need to ask for a pay raise…

When my time came to step on stage it was over before I realised I had even gone up! I was worried I had blocked out the memory for it being traumatic, but the photos seem to show it all going ok, so I shall put it down to an innate level of shyness letting my nerves get the better of me.

World Travel Awards, Real Russia award presentation as Russia's Leading Travel Agency

Yes, that is fear you can see in my eyes!

Once I had collected the award there was the small matter of two interviews with the travel media present. You will be pleased to hear that these have yet to be uploaded to the internet, so you will not have to watch me stutter through them. Yet. Once they are online I am sure they will find their way to Facebook and/or Twitter.

And that was that. The World Travel Awards. A chance to celebrate all that is good about the travel industry, and all that is good about travelling.

Now it is time to start plotting our course for the 2016 World Travel Awards. A course made up of hard work, passion, commitment and enthusiasm. I hope you will join us!

09/09/2015 Update!

They interviewed me for Breaking Travel News after I was presented with the award, and the video is now online! Take a look…

Real Russia Blog

Real Russia Nominated in the 2015 World Travel Awards

Real Russia Nominated in the 2015 World Travel Awards

Vote for Real Russia as Russia`s Leading Travel Agent 2015

For more than a decade Real Russia have worked to bring Russia to the world, and the world to Russia. Therefore we are delighted to announce that, for the fifth time since 2011, we have been nominated as Russia’s Leading Travel Agent at the World Travel Awards. This is a huge honour for everyone within the company and we would love it if you could help us attain this honour.

The World Travel Awards are very prestigious. They are voted for by professionals within the travel industry and, more importantly, they are voted for by you, the customer. We won this award in 2013 and 2014 and we would love to win it for a third time.

Every day our team work with partners around the world to share with you the experiences that are available within Russia and the surrounding countries; particularly along the Trans-Siberian railway. As a group, we do not want to just send you on holiday, we want to send you on adventures, in which you can create memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Thr Promise, for Russian children with special needs

This year we will be working alongside The Promise, a charity who help disabled children in Russia get one-to-one support. They are doing an absolutely brilliant job, and we would love it if you could help them too. Whether you visit their website, their Just Giving page or share their details on Facebook and Twitter; every little helps. This year, for every vote we receive from our World Travel Awards page, we will donate to this incredible cause.

If you feel that we have been able to help you in any way realise your Russian dream, from helping you connect with fellow travellers through our forum, to showing you interesting news and facts on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and from arranging your visa to supplying you with your Trans-Siberian tickets, we would love it if you could vote for us.

For information on how you can help us, visit our dedicated World Travel Awards page.

Take a look at the videos below to see our director being interviewed after winning the award in 2013.

Real Russia Blog

World Travel Awards Beckon Real Russia

World Travel Awards Beckon Real Russia

Celebrating their 20th anniversary this year the World Travel Awards (WTA) are back; and Real Russia are competing for the title of Russia’s Leading Travel Agency 2013.

The WTA were established in 1993 to distinguish quality within the travel and tourism industry. Recognised globally as one of the most prestigious awards in the business, receiving a nomination alone is a clear message of appreciation for hard work, dedication and delivering a high standard of customer care.

Separated into ten regions across the globe, each will hold individual ceremonies to include a wide range of categories. The winners will then compete head-to-head in the grand final in December 2013. Attended by the elite of the travel world, the event will be a great celebration of travel and tourism excellence.

As the dedicated experts taking care of all your travel needs, we hope you think our commitment should be acknowledged and rewarded by the WTA.

If you have received outstanding customer service from our travel team; been happy with your visa process; used our informative forum; or experienced the trip of a life time on one of our Trans-Siberian Train Tours, we would really appreciate your support by voting for us.