UC News

Photos: Farm for people with learning disabilities fights stigma in Russia

Photos: Farm for people with learning disabilities fights stigma in Russia
Yulia, 35, walks a donkey in a yard of the Svetlana farm. Reform proposals have been drawn up for Russia’s more than 500 state institutions for people with learning disabilities but have so far not led to concrete measures. They aim to reduce the number of old-style state homes and develop therapies like those provided by the Svetlana community. (Olga Maltseva / AFP)
“The government is ready to work on this with us, but a change in legislation is needed,” Pravmir website quoted Anna Bitova, head of an educational NGO for children with learning disabilities and a government committee member on social policy. Svetlana’s director said that staff there was on hand to help authorities create new programmes. Currently though, she added, “no one is interested in our 20 years of experience.” (Olga Maltseva / AFP)
Natasha, 21, who has Down syndrome, serves lunch to residents of the Svetlana farm outside the settlement of Aleksino, Russia. On a warm sunny day, 37-year-old Vika walked through a farmyard carrying a compost bin, saying to AFP with pride: “This is my job.” She’s one of 18 Russians with learning disabilities to live and work on the Svetlana farm which has a dairy and bakery where residents do daily chores and therapy. (Olga Maltseva / AFP)
Yelena Aleneva, 51, director of the Svetlana farm, works in the farm dairy. More than 25 years old, it’s a rare example in Russia of people with special needs being integrated into the local community, as most remain hidden from view in state institutions left over from Soviet times. It is part of an international residential communities movement founded by an Austrian paediatrician in 1939. (Olga Maltseva / AFP)
Tolik, 21, poses in front of a cowshed. Most residents are sent to live on the farm for long periods by their families or guardians and contribute towards their costs which are mostly met by charity and state donations. On the day AFP visited, art therapy teacher Irina Andreyeva was rehearsing a play with residents based on the French classic “The Little Prince” that included dance, music and their drawings. (Olga Maltseva / AFP)
Natasha serves lunch to residents. At Svetlana, residents with various types of learning disabilities including Down syndrome lead an outdoorsy life on the farm, with help from five teachers and three volunteers. In sharp contrast to conditions in state-run homes, they live together in spacious houses, where they have separate bedrooms and share living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens. (Olga Maltseva / AFP)
Yelena Aleneva works in the farm dairy outside the settlement of Aleksino. For Vika, the farm has been home for the last 19 years during which time she has “changed a lot”, director Aleneva said. “She has become an independent person,” she told AFP. “The goal of the farm is to integrate the residents into ordinary life as much as possible,” she added. (Olga Maltseva / AFP)
Minya, 51, who has Down syndrome, rests in a chair. According to official figures, 160,000 people with learning difficulties still live in state institutions in Russia that have a dire reputation. Standard state residential centres have hundreds of people crammed together in dormitories, often under-supervised and with limited opportunities to train for employment, according to campaigners for reforms and rights groups. (Olga Maltseva / AFP)
“In Russia, there is practically no chance of socialisation after someone reaches 18 years of age,” Anna Klepikova, an anthropologist at Saint Petersburg’s European University said. She noted however “real trends towards Russian society becoming more humane” towards those with learning disabilities. Programmes to help people integrate are appearing. “But these only cater for the needs of a few dozen people.” (Olga Maltseva / AFP)

about the gallery

At Svetlana, 18 Russians with various types of learning disabilities including Down syndrome lead an outdoorsy life on the farm, with help from five teachers and three volunteers. The farm is part of an international residential communities movement founded by an Austrian paediatrician in 1939. The Camphill Movement provides educational and employment support for adults with learning disabilities and other special needs around the world.
Topic:
READ SOURCE
Open UCNews to Read More Articles