By Tabi Archer, 6.1
Over the summer, I and seven other Block 5 Russian students and our teacher Peter, were fortunate enough to visit Orion, a village community south of Moscow which works together to bring up orphan children. Having not previously heard much about Orion, none of us really knew what to expect. We found ourselves in a small village created in its entirety by the residents themselves. At the centre of the village was the school and dining room, where the families ate every meal, cooked by a very Russian woman called Olga. In the school, the children did their lessons, pottery, dancing and plays, which the foster parents ran themselves. Around the school there were about 10 houses, each with two foster parents and around 5 children, both fostered and biological.
There was a great emphasis on community, and each house was very open and welcoming to anyone in the village. Orion is an entirely self- sufficient community; growing their own food, making hay and undertaking all building and maintenance. These were jobs we all took on as part of our time in Orion, working alongside the children and adults to make butter, rake hay and paint bed frames. When we weren’t working, we went on walks through the countryside to the river, where we swam and sunbathed, which was a great way to get to know the others and (try) to speak with them in Russian.
In the evenings, we had ‘Lingvotime’, when we got in to pairs and taught English lessons. We were also taught Russian by people our own age, some of whom spoke incredible English. After this we had evening tea with our host families – by far the highlight of the day – when we drank homemade tea and played ‘Uno’, or learnt Russian folk songs.
I think we would all agree that Orion was like no place we’d ever experienced. It was a ‘therapeutic community’ in which every activity was designed to help the children overcome the difficulties from their past and to learn to trust and understand the concepts of family and authority. The sense of community made us forget we were in an orphanage completely, as we were fully immersed in their lifestyle from the moment we arrived.
After 10 days in Orion we were thrown back into the outside world with a visit to Moscow for our last day in Russia. We visited the Kremlin and Red Square, explored a Russian market, the Tretyakov Gallery and found ourselves in awe when we saw the Metro stations. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to go on this trip, and I’m really grateful to have experienced both the city and countryside of Russia. We met some amazing people, fell completely in love with the culture, and even learnt some Russian along the way.
View a slideshow of pictures of the visit:
Just two weeks after the group’s visit to Orion, the BBC filmed a report on the village and its philosophy – remarkably close to that of the Bedales ethos. View here.