On May 13–15, students from a boarding school for visually impaired and blind children in Gavrilov-Yam (Yaroslavl Region) visited HSE University. The pupils are mentees of the HSE Outreach student organisation.
The project was made possible thanks to the charitable organisation’s success in the Student Project Contest in autumn 2021, as well as the administrative support of the Volunteer Centre. The project is aimed at helping school students adapt to life in a major city, and was divided into professional, financial, and everyday sections.
The children learned how to apply for a job and how to quit, how to earn money, and how to navigate around the city. They began with a city simulation quest at Pokrovka in which they visited an ‘employment office’. They learned about the available jobs there and tested some of them out at special stations devoted to new technologies, veterinary medicine, philology, teaching, and design. HSE Students from the School of Art and Design, Business Informatics and technical professions were involved in the game.
I was able to try out many different roles on the project. For example, I played the role of a fraudster, asking participants to give me their CVV, take a loan from a fake bank, and buy a dubious course on social media. It was a useful experience—making a mistake in a game isn’t as serious as falling victim to a fraudster in real life.
Oksana Osadchaya, a visually impaired graduate of HSE University, was invited as a guest speaker at the philology station. She talked about her background, explaining how she joined HSE University and what opportunities the university offers. Oksana helped adapt the academic programme she studied for the visually impaired and blind children.
The kids were great, interesting and motivated. I chatted with one of the girls on social media (she asked a lot of questions about HSE University, the dormitory, enrolment, working with braille displays, and so on). I liked preparing assignments for the kids and seeing how they were handling them.
I graduated from the Faculty of Humanities. I had great teachers and the opportunity to write my course papers and diploma thesis on a topic that was extremely important to me and other students who study ancient Russian texts in braille. I like the university's openness to communicate and its willingness to create an accessible environment for students. I'm glad I can now help potential HSE students.
At the veterinary station, the children met therapy dogs and volunteers from the NGO Sighted Hearts to learn about the importance of humane treatment of animals, the basics of dog training, and opportunities for blind people to interact with animals.
NGO Sighted Hearts, dog-assisted therapy specialist
We told the children about the work of dog trainers, groomers, and handlers. Thanks to the dogs and their kindness, the children relaxed and were willing to talk about various topics and share their plans for the future. Even if none of the kids go on to be dog handlers, these meetings help them understand the importance of treating animals appropriately. These meetings are also useful for those who want to get a dog.
At the new technologies station, representatives of the HSE Minecraft project presented and explained some new technologies to the children in the form of a game. Tactile mechanics were used at the station: the participants were given Lego sets and asked to assemble and present their own technological devices.
Students of the HSE Art and Design School told the children about the work of designers. The speakers had prepared numerous tactile materials and invited the children to make collages about spring. At the teaching station, participants learned about teaching work and how to find fulfilment in the profession. Children could earn money at each station, which had to be spent wisely in the city: they could visit a beauty salon, do a course in clay modelling, and take other training courses and master classes, to name but a few.
The whole project was inclusively adapted. All materials were printed in braille, and special voice-assistant software for blind people was used to sign employment agreements.
We showed that the world can be adapted for everyone who lives in it. We have braille signage at the university— all numbers in the lifts of our building are in braille. Children should believe that the people they meet in their lives will be there to help them.
Project Manager, NGO Youth Perspective, HSE graduate
We held a psychological game for kids called The Way of the Owl (Russian: ‘СОВЫ’, a reference to the bird and an acronym of the phase ‘SOznatelny VYbor’—‘Conscious Choice’). The game helps participants build internal consistency, work on their personal qualities, and adjust their life path based on real interests and values.
The children got an opportunity to come to Moscow and experience the city, talk to the volunteers, and ask questions about admission to HSE University. They visited the Experimentanium Science Museum and a caramel factory.
We told the children a lot, but they shared their stories too. They talked about life in the boarding school and what they were interested in. We learned about their lives, hobbies, and interests. We have made good friends over the past three days.