What’s an Ambassador?
When we were taking teams of high school students to Siberia to set up a camp we called them “counselors” because that was what they were – camp counselors. Today, going to Kitezh, they are much less like camp counselors and much more like ambassadors from a different culture. So we changed what we call them to better reflect what they are really doing. They are Ambassadors.
Why Become a Ambassador?
Ambassadors will hear this over and over, but Kitezh is unlike anywhere in the world. Our purpose – to provide a thought provoking and safe journey to Russia, where they will experience Kitezh in its true form. It’s a school, a community, a family, a farm and, most importantly, a sanctuary. Far from the streets many of the children grew up on, Kitezh is peaceful a place that welcomes anyone who wants to be a part of something important. As an Ambassador with Bainbridge Island-Kitezh, you will have the opportunity to travel, to see new things, to work hard, to meet some amazing kids, and to be a part in one of the most successful social experiments in the last twenty years. No one visits Kitezh and goes unchanged.
Furthermore, Kitezh needs your help. It can be hard to be a rural community. Not only is there a lot of work, but the children are in danger of growing up in isolation. Volunteers, especially young people, are essential to the process of helping these kids heal. For them to experience warmth from a stranger is an invaluable help in their rehabilitation.
Kitezh was built on hard work, creativity and a love for children. The community thrives today because every person – whether they’ve been in Kitezh since the beginning or are just passing through – values these traits. If you enjoy working for something you believe in, if you can bring what makes you unique, if you are compassionate towards children and the people around you, you’re the right person to apply. When you arrive in Kitezh, you will be excluded from very little. First time visitors and longtime residents work side by side. Be open and ready to jump in to how Kitezh works.
What Will The Ambassadors Do?
The team begins preparing in January, shortly after they are selected. Ambassadors are required to attend monthly training sessions and participate in 1-2 community service events as well as several Bainbridge Island-Kitezh events throughout the year. It’s a significant commitment and the benefits are great: bonding with a group of peers plus learning about Russian history, language, and culture. And then of course, there is the actual trip! In Kitezh, there is no such thing as being at work and not being at work. It is this simple fact that makes Kitezh so wonderful: unlike an orphanage, people do not clock out. Bainbridge Island-Kitezh Ambassadors will be asked to help with roads, to work in the garden, to help chop potatoes – to help with the jobs everyone in Kitezh does. It is in these moments that many of Kitezh’s relationships are formed – not face to face, but elbow to elbow.
There will also be plenty of time to spend with the kids both young and the same age as the Ambassadors. They have endless energy and curiosity. They will want to know about our Ambassadors, their homes, and America. Bainbridge Island-Kitezh Ambassadors will play games with the children, help them with their English and get a chance to just relax with each other. In Kitezh, proximity is most important. So whether at work or playing a game, just being near each other will lead to unique and special relationships.
Additionally, there will be a number of Russian cultural experiences while in Kitezh. Kitezh is surrounded by land that was the scene of heavy fighting during WWII. The Ambassadors will get a chance to tour the area site with Sergei Khloponov, a military expert, and dig up artifacts from the war. This area and this aspect of what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War is truly amazing and offers a view of WWII unfamiliar to most Americans. Indeed, the remains from WWII are still plentiful in this region.
In Kitezh, the Ambassadors will experience a Russian banya. A banya is somewhere between a sauna and a sweat lodge. Often inducing long discussions about life’s most important questions, the banya is a uniquely Russian experience few tourists get to really experience.
You can get a really good idea of what the trips are like day-by-day by reading the trip logs. Be aware that each year is likely to be slightly different but you can get a really good idea of what the trip is like.
After departing from Kitezh, the team will get the chance to see iconic sites while touring Russia’s two largest cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. They will tour Red Square, the Kremlin, the Hermitage, the Church on Spilled Blood and many other breathtaking pieces of Russia. The exact itinerary changes from year to year depending on what is open and weather. To get a good idea of where past groups have gone check out the Trip Log.
2017 Tentative Itinerary
We are working with Kitezh and guides in Moscow and St. Petersburg to finalize the 2017 trip dates. Typically the trip starts a week or so after the end of the school year and lasts about 21-23 days. We will post our entire year’s calendar as soon as we have it on our Calendar page.
If you would like to see what happened on the trip in 2016 you can check out the trip log that captured the whole thing day by day. The log is in reverse order (last day appears first). The 2015 trip log is in there, too.