Founded in 1996, the International Friendship Corporation has begun its second decade of implementing humanitarian projects for children and youth. The corporation pays special attention to children from low-income families of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Since the establishment of this organization, International Friendship has been able to fund effective strategies of international assistance to parents and schools in addressing complex pedagogical and psychological problems upbringing “difficult” children from disadvantaged families and children with disabilities. It works in close cooperation with the American public and non-governmental organizations, as well as international foundations and public organizations in other countries such as Russia and Ukraine. The corporation actively works to contribute to UN and UNESCO children’s programming.
The implementation of most of the projects conducted by the International Friendship Corporation is made possible by the high level of professionalism exhibited by volunteers that help in a variety of ways; some work as educationalists or sports instructors. For their contributions made in the social and cultural life of our community, Victoria Krugolets and Felix Shteyn were awarded certificates by Alec Brook-Krasny, a member of the Assembly of the State of New York. Their accomplishments were recognized in numerous Russian newspaper articles, as well as on television.
The corporation’s main priority lies in funding and supporting international projects, promoting education, cultural aesthetics, sports, the participation of children in international forums, competitions and festivals.
In order to implement their projects, this corporation is active in attracting sponsorship and charitable donations. This is especially important now that an economic crisis has embraced the entire world, including the United States of America. Today the government significantly reduced expenditure on social programs, which includes programs for children. It is encouraging to find that the corporation President, Felix Shteyn, and directors, Sima Budman and Victoria Krugolets, were able to sustain and even expand their humanitarian projects despite the current bad condition of the economy. All projects are worth and, above all, necessary for our children.
The organization’s work to provide material as well as psychological assistance to young people exposed to family problems, social crises, and terrorist attacks deserves special attention.
The “Terror Victim” program began in 2005. The first participants of the project were children of Israel, whom were innocent victims of adult conflicts. Members of the delegation included a 12-year old girl named Daniela B., who was a victim of the terrorist bombing of a bus in Jerusalem on 11 June, 2003. She received strong head injuries and lost her hearing. Throughout the course of two week, the Israeli children got the opportunity of going on excellent excursions to see New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. Amongst the more memorable events that took place was Daniela’s Bat-Mitzvah; she celebrated this special occasion in a restaurant in New York with her friends, her sister, representatives of International Friendship, and members of the “Club of Former Prisoners of Ghettos and Concentration Camps” from Bensonhurst.
For several years, in accordance with the project, the corporation has worked on creating summer camps for children in need of psychological rehabilitation. Every year, ten to fifty children in crisis-situations were able to perfectly relax and receive psychological rehabilitation. In the near future, the organization plans to implement its international project for children USA, Ukraine, Russia and Israel and create an international rehabilitation camp within US territory. Sports-related projects also aim to help troubled children by resolving their problems, or minimizing them at the least. Since 2001, International Friendship has developed two sports projects called “SAMBO” and “Community sailing”, which focus on teaching children how to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. According to the leaders of the organization, sport is an excellent and effective means to protect children from drugs, alcohol, and the negative impacts of life on the street, which are the main causes of child growth of crime in society. Participants of the “SAMBO” program say that the program has aided them in evaluating and get rid of personal complexes, learning responsibility for their actions, acquiring a sense of purpose, as well as learning self-discipline.
Project “Sailing” started in the summer of 2006. International Friendship launched a project “sail” for children from disadvantaged families of New York. President of the organization, Felix Shteyn, is particularly proud of this program because he finds sailing to be very beautiful, but also amongst the most expensive and elite sports in the world. A sport that is practically not available for the poor. Thanks to the projects conducting by the organization, children from low-income and underprivileged families can experience this sport too. “We firmly believe”,-said Felix Shteyn-“nothing can unite people as well as the sea can. At sea, the best qualities of a human are displayed- courage, perseverance, industriousness, discipline, and willingness to help. Sailing requires people’s collective efforts, and it forces them to unite with one another and work together. Traveling by sail as well as preparing to sail has a great educational effect on people, which is difficult to overemphasize. Initially, the project participants were only children from disadvantaged families, but then we complicated the educational task. The project participants then included families in which contradictions of parents versus children reached a state of crisis, consisting of open confrontation and hatred. We are very satisfied with the results of our work.
The sea forces the parents and children to reevaluate each other while also giving them the gift of communication. At sea, people are able to truly rediscover one another and when it is time to return to shore, those discoveries cannot be forgotten. All families who participated in the project became our reliable friends and followers of the project but much remains to be done. We are hoping, for example, to organize a family boating group in New York. This project matters for our children.
“Rainbow rose” is a program conducted by International Friendship for educational and psychological assistance for children with cerebral palsy. The project is carried out by adult-child volunteers. They come to children with disabilities to communicate with them and express themselves by creating art. Izoza Zakirova, one of the young volunteers, evaluates her participation in this project:
“My Story Helps the World…
“Svetlana B. was born a sick girl-she has cerebral palsy, and so she attends a special school. Compared with some of her relatives, or children with the same diagnosis, Svetlana is an exceptionally developed girl. She reads well, writes well, knows how to draw and even play computer games. I met with her several months ago and was struck by how kind and sensitive Svetlana was. I read her a number of my own stories and was very pleased to find that she not only understand the substance of my tales, but also commented on which characters she liked most. I read her stories called “Who is Stronger?”, “Secret of the Dandelion Kingdom “, “Sosenka”, “The Lonely Diospyros”, “Rainbow rose” and others. Svetlana’s favorite story was “Who is Stronger?” and she even attempted to draw the main heroes of this fairytale- they were the Rain, Wind, and Sunshine. I was very happy that during her time with me, Svetlana could forget about her illness while immersing herself′ in a magical world of fairy tales. After all, all my tales have a happy end, so Svetlana believes that all is well.”
The International Friendship Organization is currently developing, together with the New York Association of the Disabled, a new project- an edition of practical psychological rehabilitation for disabled children. President of the Association, Alla Sverdlova, expressed readiness to take part in this work. It is symbolic that the first working meeting of the Friendship Organization and the Association was held on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot with the participation of Rabbi Zahra. Menahema. At this meeting Rabbi M. Zarha said that all people need spiritual support, but children with disabilities especially. He expressed a deep belief that the joint work of the Organization and the Association will have exclusive spiritual and social significance because this project will help children and adults live a full, active life.
International Friendship Program “Let’s change the world for the better” is an integral part of the “International Decade for a culture of peace and non-violence for children of the world”, which was proclaimed by the General Assembly and supported by UNESCO. In accordance with the project, International Friendship has completed a second year in which it has been organizing and financing the participation of children from immigrant families, (Russian–speaking), in international competitions and festivals.
In summer 2008 the American delegation participated in the International Festival ” Let’s change the world for the better” for the first time, under the auspices of the UN with the 2001 children’s camp Artek in Ukraine. In the 2008 Festival in Artek, the USA was represented by New Yorkers Ilan Kvitko-photographer and DJ, Veronica Gorelik – vocalist, Marta Pelyo – actress and model, Irwin Tendler- Musician, and Anastasia Ryabova- an athlete from Los Angeles. In the contest of the Festival called “My Country” the American delegation won first place. Irwin Tendler was named “Ambassador of Peace” and was included in the child group of diplomats. In the final concert of the festival, more than ten thousand people attended-there were representatives from 47 different countries.
In November 2008 the young international singers Veronica Gorelik and Anita Tendler participated in the international competition called “Chance” in Copenhagen (Denmark). Veronica Gorelik won this contest.
In April 2009 International Friendship Fund provided the American students with the opportunity to participate in two international festivals – “the Smile of Peace” in Moscow (Russia), where Veronica Gorelik was awarded with diploma 2 degrees, and the “Press Spring” at the Dnepr slopes in Kiev (Ukraine), which the Marta Pelyo won.
In June 2009 the International Friendship Organization represented children at two festivals in New York – the Festival “Our Heritage” (RACH-C) and the third International Festival of Russian culture. Veronica Gorelik performed at the festivals in New York with the debut of a song called “We can change the world for the better with you!” by poet and composer Pavel Yutsis, M.D.
The new joint project of the International Friendship Organization and the creative collective of “Golden Rooster”, which was submitted in late June 2009 at a reporting meeting of the Organization, would greatly enhance the ability of children of our community to show their talent to the world. Experienced, highly professional skills of the artistic Irina Zagornova in combination with the optimism of Director Victoria Krugolets, enhances trust in the fact that our talented children will represent the Russian community of New York at the most prestigious international children’s competitions, festivals and forums.
14 July 2009: International Friendship organized a second USA delegation into Artek International Children’s Forum of the UN. The US delegation consisted of 12 children from Russian-speaking families. Katherine Belau was awarded a diploma for a song competion at an International Fair, where all countries presented their culture. Americans also performed in front of other campers from other camps. Our delegation was also involved with dancing, singing, and playing instruments. In the 2009 Festival in Artek, the new “Ambassador of Peace” was 15-year-old Michelle Nedashkovskaya. Michelle was included in the child group of diplomats.
In our recent efforts to educate people on the principles of tolerance and peace and commemorate the 65th anniversary of the victory in World War II and the Holocaust, which the United States had a key role in, Michelle Nedashkovskaya takes the opportunity to remember the many men, women, and children who perished during this horrific time and educates everyone about this event in order to prevent it from ever happening again. Michelle organized such a session at Staten Island Technical School in November of 2009. Together with other active members of our Organization Michelle went on a television program called School Home Production by Frank Mazza to talk about the organization’s values of peace and tolerance. On January 27th, 2010 the United Nations held a special session on the Holocaust where Michelle took an active part. On March 9th, 2010 Michelle attended a follow-up session at the UN presented about an Encyclopedia published about the Holocaust.
Children can make a difference! In this we must firmly believe!
Felix Shteyn – President and Founder of International Friendship Organization, businessman, immigrant from Ukraine.
Victoria Krugolets- Program Director of International Friendship, a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick NJ, immigrated to the US from Russia. Since 2001, she collaborates on humanitarian issues with American charitable organizations and public organizations of the countries of the former USSR.
Sima Budman-teacher-consultant, Director of International Friendship, until 2009 Head Club prisoners of ghettos and concentration camps Jewish Center in Bensonhurst, emigrated from Moldova.