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Festival Without Borders: HSE’s First Inclusive Festival Takes Place in Moscow

HSE University recently held the ‘Magic World’ inclusive charity festival at Bauman Garden in Moscow. The guests included children from four orphanages sponsored by HSE, as well as anyone else who was interested. The HSE News Service provides a summary of the festival’s activities below.

Magic World was conceived as a major outdoor festival for children and adults alike in 2015. Then, Open Your Eyes, HSE’s charity organization, successfully held the first festival ‘Heroes Among Us’, which mostly concerned students and their education. ‘Then, we understood: our team has enough volunteers, energy, resources and ideas to organize an event a big event, but this time for kids,’ said Yana Belyakova, an HSE alumna and one of the Magic World organizers.

This year, this idea was finally implemented, held to mark Children’s Day in Russia. The key theme for the event was a ‘festival without borders’. In this respect, the festival’s territory was to be place where kids from orphanages sponsored by the ‘Open Your Eyes’ charity could kick off summer together with children from mainstream kindergartens and schools, as well as their parents, students, HSE graduates and staff.

During the day, Bauman Garden was home to 12 venues with lectures, workshops, competitions, concerts and theatrical performances. There was even an impromptu planetarium. Activities at each of these venues were prepared by HSE departments, as well as the festival’s partners: Hospital Clowns, Lego, MosIgra, Coddy and many others.

Some of Magic World’s visitors were simply people strolling through Bauman Garden who were very pleased to participate. But many others took their whole families to attend the HSE festival on purpose. For example, Maria with her husband Dmitry, and their children David and Emilia, said that they learned about Magic World online and specifically decided to attend its opening: ‘We had enough time to look at everything; we visited all the venues, and the kids particularly enjoyed the planetarium’.

Nina Bragilevskaya, Leading Analyst at the HSE Analytical Centre, also enjoyed the effective organization of the event and said that her children were most impressed by the lecture about robots, prepared and presented by MIEM. Furthermore, many visitors named ‘Country of Discoveries’ as the most thrilling venue.

Evgeny Lezhnev

Postgraduate Student, MIEM School of Computer Engineering

We talked about the developments at the MIEM Laboratory of Robotics and proved to the children that robots are not as scary and complicated as might seem at first glance. Using the example of our designs, we showed how this technology works. Many were thrilled to hear about robots and learn some new facts. For example, some of them are really shocked to learn that, in fact, the first robot appeared in the 3rd century BC. Meanwhile, people also asked about how their jobs might become automated, as well as how to develop such mechanism. Still, such robots have been with us for only 60 or 70 years.

The festival’s visitors included children from four Russian institutions sponsored from the Open Your Eyes charity: the Kolchugino School for Mentally Disabled Children; Sobino Neuropsychiatric School, Yakroma School for Mentally Disabled Children and Orphans; and Polotnyano Zavodskoy School for Mentally Disabled Children. ‘The kids had a great time, and there was no venue they missed,’ recalled Tatyana Veshnyakova, an occupational therapist from the Sobino Neuropsychiatric School (Vladimir Region), adding: ‘We attended workshops, a concert, and did some fitness – looks like we tried everything. We also took a lot of photos, which will give us nice memories’.

‘There are many stereotypes about special needs schools in Russia and their residents, who spend most of their lives in isolation behind high fences,’ said Yana Belyakova, adding: ‘We really want to do away with these stereotypes, the fences, and such closed institutions. We would like to never hear on a playground anything like “get away from this boy, he’s sick”. The first step on this way is to start talking and communicating to each other. And the easiest way to do this is through play’.

The visiting children at the festival were accompanied by over 200 volunteers from Open Your Eyes. Some of them were working with special needs children for the first time, though prior to the festival, they attended special educational events. ‘At the festival, I accompanied kids from the Yakhroma School for Mentally Disabled Children. Together, we visited the planetarium, met with a couple dozen “hospital clowns”, watched a magic show, participated in a talk show, as well as chatted, danced, and took a lot of photos,’ notes Yana Belyakova.

We managed to do everything that we planned for the festival. As a result, the kids went away with lot of new emotions, sharing interrupting each other, as well as hugging and thanking us

Lena, 16, said that she was interested in stories about stars and planets, and was going to continue studying this subject after the festival. Kolya made a touching presentation, expressing love for the teachers and friends from his school. And Sasha said it was a very happy day, since he made a photo with Baba Yaga (his second favorite character after Maleficent).

It is the hope of the organizers that this format will become a good tradition, not only for Muscovites, but for the kids from these schools.

 

Valeria Kasamara, HSE Vice Rector

Magic World, an inclusive charity festival, turned out to be a big success! We received lots of positive and enthusiastic feedback from participants, and the main credit for this goes to volunteer students, who organized the festival with a high level of dedication and quality. The organizers from the ‘Open Your Eyes’ organization and Konstantin Sedov’s Hospital Clowns help foster an atmosphere of kindness, friendship, and, perhaps most important, an equally welcoming and caring attitude to each of the guests. Parents and kids spent time truly together, and special needs children felt ‘in tune’ with everyone else. I hope that the festival will become our traditional annual event.

Photos by HSE University/ Sergey Strokov

The Magic World festival’s organizing committee would like to express its gratitude to the HSE Theatre, under the leadership of Irina Sirotinskaya, and the Sundance Theatre, which is headed by Sona Ovsepyan, as well as the partners who offered free catering for volunteers and visitors from the schools (KOP HSE, Brusnika Lait, MAKS FOOD, Kompass Group Rus, Razdolie Company, and IE Samushia M.G.).

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