From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Russian children learn benefits of community service

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 30 Jan 2003 14:41:18 -0600

Jan. 30, 2003  News media contact: Tim Tanton7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn. 

NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.

A UMNS Report
By the Rev. Brent Porterfield*

Doing volunteer community service, like picking up trash and fixing broken
playground equipment, is unheard of in Russia.

So when the leaders of the Christian Youth Center in Smolensk, a city in
western Russia, demanded "community service" from children as the price of
admission to the center's summer program, their parents were skeptical. The
United Methodist leaders insisted that one day a week of service was
required, describing it as "tuition." The parents finally relented.

That summer-term program, called "On the Road to Find Out," challenged
Russian students to work creatively. During the six-week program, the
children picked up trash on a nature trail and collected more than 100 big
bags of litter. They became more enthusiastic as they saw how their work made
their community cleaner and safer.
The summer program is part of a multi-pronged ministry pioneered in Smolensk
by the United Methodist Campus Fellowship at Murray (Ky.) State University.
American and Russian students active in the western Kentucky campus ministry
first traveled to Russia in January 2002 to establish an "Internet outpost"
where students of all ages could gather. (See UMNS story #044, "Campus
ministry group starts Internet outpost in Russia," Feb. 7, 2002.)

Initially, the program consisted of three "classes" a day for students to
practice English and have time on a computer. 

The community connections from those first classes grew into a network of
outreach and mission opportunities. Murray State students persuaded Russian
university students to mentor younger, poor, street kids who are falling
through the cracks of the social structures. 

Murray State's United Methodist campus ministry provides a place for the
United Methodists in Smolensk to meet during the week for Bible study.
They've also undertaken to tutor the children at the nearby Dubrovinsky
Orphanage. The group hired a full-time English teacher for the orphans and
trained the older children to operate an on-site computer lab. The orphanage
already had eight computers donated by a German company, but it didn't have
software or the know-how to network them until the United Methodist students

Students and leaders from the Christian Youth Center also work in several
other areas:

7	Teaching Russian business people "business English" and Web-page

7	Helping local Russian doctors with support for the first private
clinic in Smolensk.

7	Setting up computers for the Society of Deaf and Blind Persons.

7	Finding staff uniforms, blankets and baby gowns for the premature
baby ward in Smolensk's Central Hospital.

More information about the center, the students and the children at the
Dubrovinsky Orphanage is available at online. 

# # #

*Porterfield is the United Methodist campus minister at Murray (Ky.) State
University. This story originally appeared in the Memphis Conference edition
of the United Methodist Reporter newspaper.

United Methodist News Service
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