Tooele Transcript Bulletin (Tooele, UT)
Posted on July 19, 2005
By Mark Watson
A few Tooele organizations are doing their part to help people in Russia improve their lives.
Tooele City has hosted Russian teens; Tooele Valley Rotary Club helped organize a rotary club in sister city Kambarka; and last week Tooele's DDI Vantage opened its doors to visitors from Izhevsk, Russia.
DDI Vantage is a group which specializes in early intervention for children ages 0 to 3. DDI Vantage is funded through the Utah State Health Department.
Nurse Cherie Martin said early intervention applies to children who are or have been at risk of developing a handicapping condition or other special needs that may affect their development. Problems range from lack of motor skills, speech problems, social and emotional problems, etc.
Izhevsk is the largest city in the Russian state of Udmurt with a population of 700,000. It is home to Udmurt State University. Tooele's sister city Kambarka is also a city in the state of Udmurt.
Visiting DDI Vantage last week were Sergey Sirotkin and Maria Melnikova, faculty members of the Department of Psychology and Education at Udmurt State University. They are interested in learning all they can about early intervention programs used in the United States.
"Russia is 40 years behind in programs for children; many children are confined to orphanages because parents do not have the skills or money to help children. Sergey and Maria are excited to learn all they can about early intervention." Martin said.
Sirotkin and Melnikova came to the United States as part of the Open World Program, which is managed by the Center for Russian Leadership Development, an independent agency located at the Library of Congress.
Open World Program brings young Russian leaders to the United States for in-depth exposure to American democratic and economic institutions. Open World is the only exchange program housed in the U.S. legislative branch.
In addition to Sirotkin and Melnikova, the Russian delegation also included Nikolay Leonov, dean of the department of psychology and education at Udmurt State; and Olga Koroleva, vice-head of children's hospital "Neuron 3."
The Russian group is working to make lasting connections with professionals at Utah State University and other organizations in Utah including the Utah State Health Department, The Children's Center and DDI Vantage.
People who have visited Tooele from Russia are extremely concerned about orphans in Russia. One orphanage is located in Kambarka.
Statistics show that about 15,000 children have to leave Russian orphanages each year once they reach ages 16 to 18. Of these, 5,000 are unemployed, 6,000 are homeless, around 3,000 resort to crime, approximately 1,500 commit suicide, and roughly half the girls are forced into prostitution.
Through the help of several organizations, young Russian leaders will continue to visit the United States through exchange programs.
Open World aims to foster understanding between the United states and the former Soviet Union to assist in democratic and economic reforms. Up to 2,500 Russian leaders will be invited to participate in Open World this year.
More than 7,000 Open World visitors from all 89 Russian regions have visited the U.S. since the program began. Participants are drawn from a wide range of political parties and ethnic groups, and more than a third are women.
There was a similar program with West Germany under the Marshall Plan after World War II, which helped that country's transition to democracy.
[Reprinted with Permission]