Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How much does this program cost? Where does the money come from?
A. The trip for 2017 will cost $4000 for each Ambassador. This is all-inclusive and includes approximately $1800 in airfare, $1000 in room and board at Kitezh, travel to St Petersburg and hotel, food and tours with professional tour guides in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. The first $500 is due in early January which parents or guardians are expected to pay. Ambassadors are expected to raise the remainder and we have a comprehensive process for soliciting donations from friends and family which has been very successful. If you cannot pay the initial $500 please contact us and we can work with you confidentially. We also have a limited number of scholarships available.
Q. Why should I choose this program over others offered to students?
A. This program has been in existence since 1999. It has a long and successful history with over 230 kids having gone through this program. It provides personal growth in many areas including the chance to work with other Bainbridge kids for 6 months learning about Russia and performing local community service. Upon arrival in Russia, Ambassadors participate in the day-to-day lives of members of a unique cooperative community where the focus is on foster children and family. Beyond that, Ambassadors get the chance to visit Moscow and St Petersburg, two of the most interesting cities in the world. This trip is primarily about learning about and living with another culture – it is not a vacation; it is deep immersion in an entirely new culture and experience.
Q. When is the trip? What if I can’t go on the scheduled dates?
A. Generally, the trip is three weeks starting about a week after the last day of school. Our group is invited during this time to help prepare Kitezh for their nationally-known summer camp, held each summer. These dates are set by Kitezh and are not flexible. If you have other commitments during this time period, this program is not for you.
Q. What qualifications are required?
A. Ambassadors must currently be enrolled in high school as a sophomore or junior. They may either attend a high school on Bainbridge Island or be a resident of Bainbridge Island and attend high school off-island. A strong desire to work with children and an interest in Russian culture are very important. They must be open to learning about themselves and able to work within a team setting. Also, Ambassadors must have the ability to commit fully to the program. Other than that, there are no GPA or community service requirements.
Q. Is it safe?
A. Our first priority is the safety of the team. We send two adult chaperones with between 8 and 10 Ambassadors. We follow U.S. Department of State travel recommendations and we speak with experts both here and in Russia if there are political or safety issues to be concerned about. We will not send anyone without being certain they will be safe.
Q. How do I apply?
A. The application is generally available around the first week in October on this website – look for the application in the menu on the top of each page.
Q. What is the itinerary?
A. We start by flying from Seattle to Moscow and then spend approximately 2 weeks in Kitezh. We then travel to Moscow and St Petersburg for an additional 5-7 days. The total duration including travel time is approximately 3 weeks.
We are constantly tuning the trip to improve the experience so no two years are exactly the same but you can get an idea of what it is like by reading through our trip log. It is a day-by-day log of what the team did. You can peruse it here.
Q. What do we do in Kitezh? What is an actual day like?
A. We live in the homes of the Kitezh residents. We get up in the morning, have breakfast and tackle any assigned projects like mending fences, preparing structures, gardening, painting or working in the kitchen. We eat lunch and spend time doing crafts or playing games and getting to know each other. In the evenings, we talk and play music and eat dinner together.
Q. What do we do to prepare for this trip?
A. Once the group is selected in December, there are monthly training sessions and we participate in a few community service projects as a group. During the training sessions we review Russian history, language and culture. We learn about Russian leaders and literature. As the trip gets closer we prepare for a successful itinerary and plan what to bring.
Q. What will I gain from this?
A. You will gain as much as you put in, plus more. You will be immersed in another culture where politics and culture are evolving rapidly every day. You’ll have the chance to see how other families work, especially families who aren’t privileged like we are. Many of the kids in the foster homes are orphans who have never seen much outside of Kitezh so you can help them understand the broader world as you begin to understand it yourself. You get the chance to connect with fellow Bainbridge kids in ways that are not possible here at home. This is a once in a lifetime experience!