Back from Russia: The Haven Youth Trip to Kitezh

 

It has been over a week now since Denise and I and 12 Haven Youth leaders returned from Russia having put on a Kids in the Spotlight in the Kitezh orphanage/children’s community and I wanted to thank all of the generous supporters of the trip both financial and moral.

It was a challenging and meaningful experience for all involved leavened with many moments of fun and enjoyment.

Your Haven Youth leaders were amazing throughout the experience, throwing themselves headlong into working with the Russian children and youth in such an engaging and contactful manner and modeling what Denise was teaching wholeheartedly. The Russian children and youth, ages 10-16 dived into the program and really participated with enthusiasm and great energy.

I spent the first week doing physical work around the community but then spent the last two days in the KITS program, one of the few times I have done that as I am usually working in Vancouver while Denise is working at The Haven. Sitting in on the program I was very moved to be accepted by the group as they did their temperature readings, attended to Denise’s talks and rehearsed and prepared for their performance of Princess Bride, Russian/English version.

Being married to Denise for the 25 years that she has lead Kids in the Spotlight I always knew the results of the program were amazing but never really saw what went on to create that end product of a great show and children and youth feeling great about themselves, experiencing closeness with the group and coming away with enhanced confidence, skills and understanding of themselves and others.

In Russia they organized what they called “psychological club” daily where Denise taught the Russian and Haven kids (the Haven youth had already learned much of this from attending Youth Leadership at The Haven but the talks were always designed to deepen their current understanding as well as introduce the Russian youth to then concepts) a raft of knowledge relevant to their personal development such as:

Grice’s maxims, communication model, ego defense mechanisms, identity status model, attachment styles, conflict styles, conflict transformation model, Kohlberg’s model of moral development and Denise’s Kits “ships” model of membership, followership, leadership, friendship, relationship and kinship.

They did breathing exercises, sharing and of course tremendous practical learning as issues arose during the development and rehearsal of the show. The Haven youth leaders were given responsibilities to stretch them personally and enhance their leadership skills and experience.

What sticks out the most for me, though, was the simple yet profound message that Denise shared many times with the group. That the performance itself was less important than how they treated and supported one another, that they would make mistakes during the show but there were loving and supportive ways to help each other with their lines and parts and creating this type of group was what they would really cherish from the experience. It sounds so simple but Denise delivered the message in such a clear, loving and masterful way that I was blown away.

So the show was a huge hit! It was funny, exciting, lively, flawed yet perfect and bathed in the supportive loving energy that had been created during the 10 days of the program. There were many terrific group and individual moments, standing ovation from a great audience and great feeling of accomplishment, excitement and joy amongst the participants, which they followed up with a (way too loud or I’m way too old) disco. The show can be seen on Youtube, videotaped by a grateful Kitezh supporter.

The final session and ending ceremony the next day, 2 days off including a Russian sauna experience, tearful goodbyes and hugs delaying the departure of the bus to Moscow. 3 nights, 2.5 days of Moscow in a blur of churches, art galleries, Kremlin, Lenin’s mausoleum, Gorky Park, war memorial, rugby scrumming onto the Moscow metro while obsessively counting the group, a Russian circus and then the flight home and hand off of the Haven youth to their parents at YVR.

Thank you to everyone who supported this trip, especially Rachel who made it all happen.