Healing from the Beslan School No. 1 Tragedy Continues

At the School on Kominterna Street, children, their parents, and teachers happily join in the festivities celebrating the first day of school. With so many smiles, it’s hard to believe that just across the street, in the gym of the old Beslan School No. 1, is a memorial to the children and adults whose first day of school turned into a nightmare.

Nine years ago, on September 1-3, 2004, over one thousand children, teachers, and parents were held hostage by Chechen terrorists. They were held in the school gym for three days with almost no water and food. Bombs were strung between the basketball hoops and around the room. Following chaotic gunfire, the bombs detonated and part of the gym collapsed, killing 334 people, including 186 children, and injuring 810.

What was supposed to be a joyous first day of school became a tragedy.

In October following the tragedy, Keystone Human Services sent experienced mental health professionals and Student Assistance Program specialists to Moscow, Russia to train and assist clinicians from Beslan who were providing support to their community day and night for 40 days straight. Many of these same clinicians continue to provide support to Beslan to this day since the attack on School No. 1.

If there’s one thing we understand, it’s that it takes many years to heal and learn to cope with the effects of a tragedy. The need for healing continues long after the tragedy itself, and so we continue to provide support to the Children’s Rehabilitation Program at the Polyclinic in Beslan. These services continue to provide valuable support to the children and adults affected by the tragedy that took place nine years ago. Children and adults have access to family counseling services, psychiatric services, home visits, and other creative therapies, as they cope with anger, anxiety, sadness, confusion, and the loss of loved ones.

The gym of School #1 is now filled with photographs and flowers. Across the street, children laugh and learn as the school year begins. And we continue to support the children, adults, and families affected by the School No. 1 tragedy so they can live their lives and look toward the future with hope. If you would like to join us in supporting the services at the Polyclinic in Beslan, please make a donation. Every contribution helps and is greatly valued by our colleagues in Beslan.

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The Beginnings of Inclusive Education in Russia

Inclusive education is a key part of building an inclusive society, where people with disabilities are accepted and welcomed into the community. Children with and without disabilities benefit from inclusive classrooms. In Russia, inclusive education has received a lot of support from the government and authorities. However, very few people know how to efficiently begin inclusion in schools, although there are a few schools that are trying to truly include students. Other schools are doing a simplistic version of inclusion, where one child joins a classroom, sometimes with a tutor paid by the child’s parents. There are currently no standards, rules, guidelines, or evaluation system.

The Keystone Foundation for Children and Families aims to promote inclusive education. “Keystone’s goal is not only to promote the idea in general to the public, but also to develop an efficient and effective model of inclusive education in Russia,” says Katya Babina, General Director. “In order to reach this goal, we will need to unite the knowledge of international experts with Russian best practices.”

Recently, the Institute of Inclusive Education Problems hosted a conference dedicated to examining inclusive education and its implementation. On June 26-28, the 2nd International Scientific-Practical Conference, “Inclusive Education: Practice, Research Methodology,” was held in Russia by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Moscow Department of Education, Educational and Methodical Association of Higher Educational Institutions of Russian Federation on Psychological and Pedagogical Education, Moscow State Budget Institution of Higher Professional Education “Moscow State University of Psychology and Education,” Institute of Inclusive Education Problems of MSUPE.

The conference fostered conversations about inclusive education, based in science, theory and methodology, practice, and society. It included presentations by experts from around the world. Keystone Human Services International was invited to give a presentation, and we asked Dr. Thomas Neuville, a professor at Millersville University and an expert in inclusive education, to present. We have often partnered with Thomas for educational opportunities.

Dr. Neuville spoke about inclusive education in the United States, where inclusion has moved along a continuum from institutions to fully integrated schools, although truly inclusive education has still not been achieved.

The United States has learned several powerful lessons about inclusive education from the experience of the past several decades. There are four directives and several methods that work together to create a child’s best chances for true inclusion and growth.

First, inclusion should start right away in ordinary settings. Historically, segregating children, even if it’s under the guise of preparing them for inclusion, leads to children falling behind and they often never fully rejoin the community.

Teachers and educators should also presume that children are competent and build a strong relationship with the student so they can work with the student’s learning style. Current teaching methods can be used to educate all children together.

Conferences such as this one continue to build knowledge about inclusive education so all children can attend school with their peers and receive a quality education. Thank you to the Institute of Inclusive Education Problems and thank you to Dr. Neuville and Millersville University for sharing your expertise.

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I Have a Family

“We have a rule in our family,” says Angela Cretu. “When we work, we work all together. When we rest, eat or do everything else—we do it together, too. And Mihai has become a part of it.”

Angela and her husband Vasile are Shared Living Assistants for Keystone Moldova, and they have welcomed Mihai into their family. Before he came to live with Angela and Vasile, he spent many years in an institution.

When Mihai left the institution, he had very few skills. He could make his bed, change his sheets, and fold his clothes. Now that he has joined a family, he has blossomed and can do many things on his own—washing dishes, sweeping the floor, feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, feeding the other animals, planting and harvesting the garden.

He has gained more skills, but more importantly, he has gained a family who cares about him.

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It’s Good to be in a Family

“This tree over here…I planted two trees. That one over there. And those I brought from Gheorghe. I planted them with my own hands,” says Fiodor, showing off the garden he helped plant and care for at his home.

Fiodor spent 19 of his 33 years at the Home for Children (Boys) with Mental Disabilities in Orhei. With the support of Keystone Moldova and the Community for All-Moldova Program (funded by the Open Society Foundations/Mental Health Initiative and the Soros Foundation-Moldova), Fiodor moved out of the institution and joined a family in the community, part of Keystone Moldova’s Shared Living service.

“It’s good to be in a family,” says Fiodor. “I wish all the boys at the institution could live in a family. They want to live in a family, to see the world, the reality.”

“It feels like I’ve gotten a dozen years younger since he’s been here,” says Valentina Grubii, the Shared Living assistant. It’s because of the communication, she says. In fact, one of her neighbors will rush over to talk with Fiodor if she hasn’t seen him for a whole day because it feels like she’s missing something.

“Every child should have a family,” says Valentina. “They should have a chance to see and to live a real life.”

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Keystone Human Services Announces New General Director of Keystone Foundation for Social Assistance to Children and Families – Russia

Ekaterina BabinaKeystone Human Services welcomes Ms. Ekaterina Babina as the new General Director for Keystone Foundation for Children and Families in Russia.

Ekaterina (Katya) brings years of diverse experience in the non-profit sector, with a strong emphasis on fundraising, public relations, and marketing. Katya is responsible for the oversight and supervision of the Foundation, and represents an important part of the implementation of services in Russia in order to assure that the operations and services are compatible with, and in support of Keystone’s Vision, Mission, strategic initiatives and policies.

As part of her responsibilities as the General Director, Katya will be responsible for the day-to-day activities of the Foundation, and will focus on development and fundraising; setting the culture of the Foundation; developing the strategy and direction; leading and supervising staff; and managing financial and physical resources. he will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for the Foundation’s staff, programs, expansion, and execution of its mission.

Keystone Foundation for Children and Families is a Russian nonprofit organization established to promote and develop opportunities to further the independence of children and families who are in need of service due to disabling conditions, situations of poverty, abandonment, institutionalization, and other adverse societal conditions.

For more information regarding Keystone Human Services International and the Keystone Foundation in Russia, please contact:

Charles J. Hooker III, Chief Executive Officer
Keystone Human Services International
124 Pine Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Tel: 717-232-7509
Ekaterina Babina, General Director
Keystone Foundation for Social Assistance to Children and Families
2 Ugreshskaya Street, Building 98
3rd Floor, Office 9
Moscow Russia 115088
Tel./Fax: 011 7 (495) 665 64 29
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Moldovan Professionals Learn to Support People with Disabilities through Supported Employment

Supported Employment Workshop ParticipantsOn March 4-6, 2013, twenty professionals from the Republic of Moldova attended a course on Supported Employment, part of the ongoing support and technical assistance provided by Keystone Human Services International (KHSI) through a grant from the Open Society Foundations. The workshop was led by long-time colleague Julie Allan of Kilsby, Allan and Morgan, LLC from the UK and assisted and guided by Elizabeth Neuville, Executive Director of the Keystone Institute. Held in Chisinau, this three-day course was attended by professionals working in inclusive education and community residential programs, as well as community center leadership and staff from the Ministry of Social Protection and the Ministry of Labor, all with a passion for assisting people with disabilities to engage in valued, paid work within their communities.

As the work proceeds in the Community for All-Moldova Program to assist people with intellectual disabilities to experience full, rich community lives, a major challenge before us now is how to help people have gainful employment. Alongside our commitment to inclusive community education and inclusive living situations for those who have endured the institutions or are at risk of it, we must also turn our attention to best practice in inclusive employment.

Supported Employment offers great possibility for people with disabilities to fully enter the economic and social life of the community. Built on a framework of Social Role Valorization, this powerful model lays out effective ways to support people to obtain employment which is a good fit for their gifts and capacities, and in which the support and job arrangements are highly individualized and even customized. It has been widely used globally with great success, assisting people in an individualized way to be successful in work, and also assisting employers to gain from flexibly and creatively maximizing the contributions from all those in their employ. This introductory workshop offered a broad overview of the principles of Supported Employment, with examples from multiple places, and exposed participants to the core practices embodied within it.

We were thrilled to offer this important learning event as the framework for an inclusive Moldova moves forward.

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2012: Strides Toward Inclusion for People with Disabilities

asistent personal2012 was a year of progress for inclusion from Keystone Human Services International’s prospective, especially in Moldova.

In Moldova, Keystone Moldova is diligently working to not only support children and adults with disabilities in community-based services, but to assist in developing a new legislative framework and quality standards for disability services so the new system of care is sustainable, high quality, and effective. On June 8, 2012, the Government of the Republic of Moldova took historic steps toward deinstitutionalization by approving a new regulation to reform the system of care. Regulation HG 351 redirects financial resources from residential institutions to community-based services, having a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities. In fact, this regulation is one of many that the Government of Moldova has recently approved, including Regulations and Quality Standards for Community Homes, Mobile Team Service, Supported Living, and Respite.

The Regulation on the Redirection of Funds dovetails with Moldova’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Moldova is working to increase active involvement of public and local administrations in the implementation of the UN Convention.

comm home MitocKeystone Moldova launched a Community Home in the Ialoveni District, and Respite Service in the Orhei District. The Community Home is the home to six boys who left the institution in Orhei to live in the community. Not only are these young men showing significant progress in their development, but they are becoming part of the community. They have befriended their neighbors, attend the local church, and visit with the other children in the village.

The Respite Service, launched in the Orhei district, offers support to parents, relatives, or other persons caring for children and adults with severe disabilities to prevent institutionalization. For up to 30 days each year, Respite Service offers care so that families and carers can have a period of rest.

To provide individuals and families with more financial stability, Keystone Moldova started the Microenterprise Incubator Project, which is designed to create jobs for persons with disabilities and their families. Individuals are learning to craft eco-friendly bags. Additionally, through the Labor Inclusion service, individuals with disabilities are developing entrepreneurial microenterprises, learning to implement business ideas that generate sustainable income.

For several years, Moldovans have received training in Social Role Valorization, a system of thought that serves as the foundation for everything we do in Keystone Human Services. However, for the first time, an SRV workshop was presented by Moldovan educators in their first language, Romanian.

The Vis Community Center celebrated five years of providing support for the children and families in Bacioi, including children with disabilities and those at risk of institutionalization. The community center still provides educational, psychological, and socialization support for children, as well as prepares children and youth to be active citizens in their community.

Keystone Moldova started using Forum Theater, or social theater, to help the public begin to change their attitudes about disabilities and people with disabilities. The audience becomes part of the performance, and they have the ability to change what is happening on the stage. Through this participation, the audience comes to the conclusion that each one of them can stop discrimination and create an environment of inclusion.

Keystone Moldova ended the year by launching a new website. Available in both Romanian and English, the new website includes Keystone Moldova’s services and projects on inclusion for children and adults with disabilities, as well as stories about some of the individuals they have supported to leave the institution.

In Russia, we began building new relationships with Russian professionals to support comprehensive care for children with disabilities, inclusive education, and training opportunities for professionals who provide these services. The Keystone Foundation for Children and Families in Moscow has been assessing the needs and readiness of key stakeholders to develop inclusive education for children with intellectual disabilities.

IMG_2238In connection with this project, we hosted a delegation of Russian professionals through the Open World Leadership Center. Ten Russian professionals who work in social services stayed with us for a week in February 2012, and during that time, they visited several schools and programs within Keystone Human Services and the community to see how services for individuals are provided.

Since the Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004, we have provided support to the psychologists in Russia providing community-based services for children and families directly and indirectly affected by this tragedy. These services have had a major impact on the community.

As we start 2013, we are envisioning even greater strides toward inclusion. With each step, we move closer to a world where all people are welcomed.

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