Ed Hatfield visited Kitezh in 2014 with the group from Sevenoaks School. This visit left a lasting impression on him of the strength of Dmitry Morozov’s dream for the care of neglected orphans in Russia, and in 2016 he returned as a volunteer at Kitezh for 3 months.
In the three months I’ve been here, Kitezh has transformed from a freezing, grey and sometimes snowy landscape into a warm and incredibly green home, and the adults and children who live here have transformed with it, changing very quickly from strangers into trusted friends.
The strength of the community and what the citizens of Kitezh achieve together is astonishing – the energy that goes into every project, every task of the day… Of course, the first priority in Kitezh is the children. This quickly becomes obvious, blatant even, in the respect each of the children is given and the devotion to their days given by every adult. The Kindergarten, lessons, sports, excursions, crafts… the citizens of Kitezh work tirelessly. And their work has results – the vitality now shining from so many of the kids here. I have at times been forced to try to match up the tragic history of some of the children here with now happy faces running around outside in the new warmth of spring. The difference that Kitezh as a community makes for each of these children cannot be underestimated.
This is what makes working with everyone here – children and adults both – so simple, so rewarding. There is a great amount of strength and life in everyone here, and it is easy to put all your energy behind them, knowing it is being used well. The simple tasks the volunteers perform – kitchen work, grass cutting, moving building supplies – these liberate everyone else here who has made Kitezh their home to do the things we cannot, inspiring the children and helping them develop and prepare for the Russian life ahead of them.
That being said, there are skills that the volunteers can offer – our hobbies, and our languages. It has been deeply satisfying to teach the students in Kitezh English. The small, lively classes are a world away from any institution and the freedom to teach in any way you please, to do anything you can think of that you think will help the students, has been wonderful. Individual classes with the more advanced students have been another source of fun, as all the terrible quirks and flaws in English put me to shame on a daily basis and their (and soon my own) exasperation with all our synonyms comes to the fore. To see myself having an impact on the children, to know that I have taught them something and they’ve enjoyed it – this has been supremely rewarding and deeply fulfilling.
Kitezh has shown me many things and I am a changed person (for the better, stronger, more self-assured, honest) for my wonderful time here. The intense nature of this charmed village makes you look inside yourself and wonder just which pieces of yourself you want to take back home, and which doubts and insecurities you can let fall by the wayside, to be lost forever in the new waist-high grass and the lupins.
Volunteer at Kitezh Children’s Community from April – June 2016