Russian visitors see how desert agencies operate
The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Posted on September 24, 2004
By Meghan Lewit
|Rodrigo PeNA / The Press-Enterprise |
Wayne McKinny, center, gives a tour of the Well in the Desert, an organization that helps the needy, to Russian delegates. The Russian government does little to address such problems, one delegate says.
"After the collapse of the Soviet Union, our country just began remodeling and we would like to use the American experience," Tkhazeplov said through an interpreter. Wearing a U.S.A. T-shirt, Tkhazeplov had just completed a half-hour tour of the R.G. Frey Jaycee Building that houses the Well in the Desert, a program that provides meals and social services to the area's homeless and needy.
Tkhazeplov, 42, who lives just about 25 miles from the site of the Beslan school siege that resulted in hundreds of deaths earlier this month, is one of five Russian delegates visiting Palm Springs this week as part of the U.S. Library of Congress' "Open World Program." Hosted by the Rotary Club of Palm Springs, participants meet with city leaders, environmentalists and local social service providers throughout the 10-day program.
"We are bringing emerging Russian leaders to the United States to give them a sense of how we view democracy here and what institutions are in place," program assistant Donna Wilson said by phone from the program's Washington headquarters.
The program, which began in 1999 and is run in partnership with Rotary International, brings close to 2,000 participants from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Uzbekistan to the United States each year. The focus is to demonstrate how state, local, and the federal governments work with nongovernmental organizations, Wilson said.
"We want to illustrate to them how this is a collaborative endeavor here," said Wayne McKinny, who heads the Well in the Desert. "You see the level of cooperation of the private and public sectors in dealing with the problem (of homelessness)."
Tatiana Vsekhsviatskaya said the government does very little to address homelessness in Russia, where most of the services for the needy are provided by individual churches or religious groups.
"Of course we would like to see more programs of state support of homeless people," Vsekhsviatskaya, of Moscow, said. "I see people here as heroes (for) assisting people."
Several of the participants said they are involved with environmental or human rights organizations in Russia.
Since arriving in Palm Springs last weekend, the group has been following a packed itinerary that includes visits to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, the Desert Water Agency, a solar-powered home and the Desert AIDS Project, as well as meetings with Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden and Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia.
The theme of the visit is ecology and environment, and many of the discussions have focused on both development and conservation issues in the valley, said host Jim Dowler of the Rotary Club of Palm Springs.
"We want to send them home exhausted, but fulfilled. That's our goal," Dowler said.
Reach Meghan Lewit at (760) 837-4409 or
[Reprinted with Permission]