Group from Russia visits to study local government and health-care issues
The Pioneer (Bemidji, MN)
Posted on October 24, 2003
By Kelly Custer
|Russian visitors ask Bemidji Police Officer John Hunt to describe the communication equipment he was carrying during an event Thursday.|
Six Russians, three women and three men, arrived in Bemidji around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, after spending almost 24 hours traveling.
Other groups of Russians were placed in Bagley, Duluth and Lino Lakes as well as three communities in Texas.
The Russians -- from health, education and public policy backgrounds -- were accompanied by a Russian student: Marina Doroshchenko, who served as a translator.
On Thursday, the Russian delegates visited with Mayor Richard Lehmann, city councilor Barb Meuers, Bemidji Police officer John Hunt and City Manager David Minke.
Translator Natalie Kastravets helped make a dialogue possible between the two groups.
Participants discussed the organization and the make-up of local government in Bemidji as well as its role in supporting programs that promote adolescent health.
The Russians from the Tomsk Oblast region are part of a program sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center of the Library of Congress.
This particular program, "Healthy Communities and Youth Risk Behavior Prevention," is administered through the American International Health Alliance.
The Bemidji North Country Health Alliance is the local organization that greeted the travelers, arranging for host families for them to stay with during their week-long visit, explained Mary Thompson, NCHA coordinator.
Dmitriy Chernov, a Russian physician was seated at the conference table, along with Irina Guseva, a youth policy administrator; Vladimir Kiselev, a social services administrator; Vladimir Gladishev, assistant to the governor of Tomsk and social worker; Svetlana Bykova and Lyudmila Mishchuk, both school headmasters.
The Russians would take turns asking their questions while the translator took notes. Then, she'd translate their questions to English, and back to Russian after the responses.
The Russians were surprised to learn that the mayor knows the Russian word for "dog." Apparently Lehmann learned it to use as an "ice-breaker" when a couple of Russians stayed with his family 11 years ago during a Paul Bunyan Hockey Invitational.
They were also interested to learn that the mayor's position is part-time in Bemidji, and he can pursue an additional career outside of politics.
Officer Hunt passed out D.A.R.E. pamphlets and talked about his involvement in the middle school. "We try to work with kids before they have a problem," he said. "We become a part of what they are doing now, and try to stay with them as they grow."
Both groups discussed drug and alcohol use among juveniles and strategies to deal with the problem. Apparently, drugs are not much of a problem with Russian youth, although alcohol is.
The Russians will spend the week touring Bemidji and will visit locations including the North Country Regional Hospital, the high school and the Evergreen House. They'll learn about the Risk Watch Program, the Ridgeway Project, the Boys and Girls Club, county health programs and more.
After their week-long stay in Bemidji, they'll travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional leaders and health policy makers before heading home to Russia.
[Reprinted with Permission]