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Project information

Disabled Children in Yelatma Orphanage in Russia.

To improve the daily lives of profoundly disabled children living in a Russian orphanage by supporting their development through play, communication and self-help skills.


Charity information: ThePromise

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  • Need


    In Russia, disabled people have traditionally been isolated from society. Children face daily discrimination as well as physical barriers to education, medical support, recreational activities, family life and participation in community life.

    In orphanages, at the age of 4 children are assessed and classified as normal or oligophrenic. Some are further classified as imbecile or idiot and are deemed ineducable.This diagnosis stays with them for life and they are denied basic human rights.


    ThePromise will deliver Portage to the severely disabled children in the orphanage. The project will show how so called ineducable children will develop if they are given one-to-one interaction, human touch, love and access to stimulating toys – all vital to healthy emotional and physical development.

    Changing the attitudes of those working with disabled children is as important as improving the lives of the children themselves.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To improve the lives of 31 severely disabled children in Yelatma orphanage.


    » Provide individual daily Portage sessions to each child.
    » Provide an ongoing training programme for Portage workers at the orphanage.
    » To ensure a holistic approach to each child, introduce specialist UK volunteers including physiotherapists, OTs, speech therapists and dieticians.

    What success will look like

    Each child has an individual schedule of activities and progress is measured against these. Milestones include – vocalisation, learning to feed themselves, sit up, crawl and walk.

    Aim 2

    To improve the lives of 15 children with severe learning and/or behavioural difficulties


    » Employ four children's workers who will devise a programme of activities for each child
    » Improve the living environment of these children so they have spaces for quiet activities and can go outdoors

    What success will look like

    Each child has different targets to achieve. Progress is measured by the behavioural improvements and general achievements of the children involved.

  • Impact


    All severely disabled children who arrive at the orphanage will immediately be assessed and introduced into the Portage programme.

    A change in attitude to the potential of disabled children within the orphanage and ultimately to disabled children nationally. This will lead to the introduction of Portage to other orphanages in Russia with severely disabled children.


    1. Some children will struggle to progress due to ill health. As each child has a personal schedule of activities this can be adapted as their needs change.

    2. As children become more active, lack of space in the orphanage becomes an issue.

    3. Change in management of the orphanage.

    With 2 and 3 we work closely with the director of the orphanage, keeping him informed of the progress and needs of the children and anticipating issues that may arise.


    ThePromise can provide written reports on the progress of the project to all donors including case studies on individual children in the programme.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £47,046

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £26,037 Salaries Portage workers and children's workers salaries, workshops and materials
      £21,009 Management costs Project management costs, visits by UK personnel overseas and office expenses
  • Background


    Yelatma is a large traditional village about 5 hours South East of Moscow. Within Yelatma is an orphanage run by the Department of Social Development and Labour, which is closed to most outsiders. 46 severely disabled children aged four to nineteen live there, shut off from the outside world. None of them attend school.


    The disabled children in the orphanage are the main beneficiaries. Also the staff at the orphanage who are able to develop their skills.

    With the growing knowledge amongst the staff that disabled children have abilities to do things, this will slowly disseminate amongst the population, gradually changing the attitude towards disabled people generally.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    A highly successful pilot project showed without doubt that Portage is a great tool for assisting these disabled children in their development. We now have 7 years experience working with disabled children in Russia and have seen how Portage changes their lives.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.



    Maria is Head Nurse and Senior Portage Worker supervising 15 Portage and Children’s workers and looking after the overall well being of the children.

    10 Portage Workers

    Trained by ThePromise, they hold daily Portage sessions with each child in the project.

    4 Children's Workers

    They hold daily sessions with the older children on different areas of development.

Andre learning to walk with splints and a walker

Andre learning to walk with splints and a walker


Will provide Portage for one child for one month.

We thought only young children would benefit from Portage but this programme produces amazing results for older children too.

Portage Worker