Vernon Mayor Wayne Lippert receives a token of gratitude from the Kindness International Student Exchange Program. Presenting it to him in council chambers are Russian student Sasha Hklebalina (left)

Vernon Mayor Wayne Lippert receives a token of gratitude from the Kindness International Student Exchange Program. Presenting it to him in council chambers are Russian student Sasha Hklebalina (left)

Russian exchange spreads kindness

When communism ended in the Soviet Union, the new Russian Federation looked to its roots for education policies.

When communism ended in the Soviet Union, the new Russian Federation looked to its roots for education policies.

“The education system needed a foundation. Its roots were in the ninth century when Greek monks brought Christianity and literacy and translated the Bible into Slavic languages,” said Dr. Olga Lutsenko, who was a specialist for moral education for the Russian Federation in the early 1990s. With the assistance of the government, she founded Fond Dobro (Kindness Foundation) in 1993 to build a system which used the Christian principles in the Bible as the basis of moral education. This is now taught in Russian schools with the Bible as a text book and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a guide. The choice is left to individuals to become Christians or to follow other religions.

“The Bible provides the general moral principals of European and Western civilization,” said Lutsenko, who now lives in Vernon and works with the Russian education system through the Kindness Foundation to develop programs and materials for students and teachers. She is president of the Canadian Kindness Society, with her husband, Fred Lutsenko, as vice-president and Gary Sedlick of Vernon as chairman of the board of directors.

The society promotes international cultural exchange with Canadian students and adults visiting youth camps in Russia over the past years. The society, through the Kindness International Student Exchange Program, was able to bring Russian students ages 11 to 19, who paid their own transportation costs, to the Okanagan for three weeks over the summer.

The 14 students spent a week at Faith Mission Youth Camp, then stayed with host families in the area. The students, who already spoke English, spent part of each day in ESL classes, then took in the local attractions. They visited Vernon City Hall and met Mayor Wayne Lippert, who told them about the history of the area.

“The students didn’t realize that Christians play an active role in Canadian society and government and in the development of the country. They could see that most Canadians will behave honestly and morally even if no one is watching them,” said Fred Lutsenko.

He said that Russia, which now has a population of 140 million people, is a rich country which could support all its citizens well from the sale of its resources but that most people are poor and only a few are very wealthy.

“The country is still somewhat in a moral vacuum era and it will take a couple of generations for a new morality to take root,” he said.

Sedlick said he is involved with Kindness International as a chance to make a difference since the foundation deals directly with the Russian education system.

For more information about Kindness International  or to get involved with programs, including another student trip next year, email gsedlick@shaw.ca or fredlut@gmail.com.