Two Cent Bridge Kotlas - Waterville Area
Sister City Connection
P.O. Box 1747
Waterville, ME 04903-1747
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Open World Social Services Workers Arrive

The Kotlas-Waterville Area Sister City Connection happily welcomed five social service workers from the Kotlas area and their interpreter- facilitator on Friday, April 12, 2013. For the third time, the Open World Leadership Center approved a Connection application to host a professional delegation; in the past it's been business/municipal leaders and teachers, and this year the Open World focus is on social services. After a two-day orientation session in Washington, D.C., the Russian guests arrived in Portland to flowers and smiles of greeting. And so began eight days of non-stop professional meetings, roundtable discussions with peers, and tours of facilities in Central Maine.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, the Russians were "invigorated" with a very chilly walk on Main Street and browsed some of the downtown Waterville stores. At the Kotlas-Waterville Area Sister City sign, the delegates stopped for photos. Delegation members (from left to right): Olga Mal'tseva, Educational Psychologist and Director of Child Development Services, Kotlas Rehabilitation Center for Children with Special Needs; Anna Semina, Physical Therapist, Kotlas Rehabilitation Center for Children with Special Needs; Galina Ivanova, Deputy Executive Director, Kotlas Special Services Center; Svetlana Kapustina, Social Worker, Assistant Principal for Occupational Health, School #3; Aleksei Subbotin, Instructor in Social Work, Kotlas Vocational School of Education; Facilitator/Interpreter Evgeniia Leonovich, Associate Professor, Pyatigorsk State Linguistics

Open World Social Services Workers

After lunch with abundant coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, the group went to Augusta to tour the Maine State Museum with Connection members and host families. The families took the delegates on short shopping trips, then to their homes for a short rest before the Welcoming Dinner at the home of Marilyn Hall, Executive Committee Member. Ellen Corey, Executive Committee Member and chief organizer of the visit, welcomed the guests, presented them with Open World briefcases and reviewed the schedule for the week's visits. The delegates presented an array of Russian gifts and souvenirs to the Kotlas Committee.

Open World Social Services Gifts

On Sunday morning, the delegates were off on a trip to Acadia National Park and put their toes into the freezing waters of the Atlantic at Sand Beach. Their first-ever lobster rolls consumed, the travelers returned to their host families and prepared for Monday, their first "work" day.

Monday morning began with a breakfast reception at the offices of Karen Heck, Mayor of Waterville. Mayor Heck outlined area social services -- municipal, state, and federal -- and answered a volley of questions from the delegates. She also presented the delegates with gifts from the City of Waterville.

For the rest of the day, the delegates went on a tour of High Hopes Clubhouse and had lunch with Club members; visited the Hospice Volunteers of Waterville offices; and ended the day at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. The delegates spoke again and again about the passion of the staff at all the facilities and were amazed by the activities performed by volunteers from the community. Volunteerism, they said, is only in its very first stages at home, and they wish that someday it will equal the community participation they saw throughout the week in Maine.

On Tuesday, they toured Educare; had lunch with a school psychologist; visited the Maine Center for Integrated Rehabilitation; and ended the day with a discussion with Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) staff members. In the evening, Martha Patterson, Committee Co-Chair, hosted dinner at her home, and the guests were presented with gift bags from the Kotlas Committee.

Wednesday morning's visit to Care and Comfort focused on home care specialties, with a concluding discussion of funding, a keenly interesting topic for the delegates. The fact that one of the psychologists at Care and Comfort is a Russian speaker from Moldova made the morning even more fruitful for the group. Wednesday's visit to the State House began with a greeting from State Senator Colleen Lachowicz, a social worker, who introduced the group to pending legislation in the area of social services.

Open World Social Services Gifts

Senator Lachowicz hosted lunch for the delegates at the State House cafeteria. During the State House tour, the Russians took possession of the podium with much pomp.

Open World Social Services Gifts

Later in the day, Governor Paul Le Page, who has visited Kotlas twice in recent years, welcomed the guests warmly, presented them with gift bags, and talked with them both about state government and about his fond memories of his trips to Kotlas.

Open World Social Services Governor

Thursday's schedule included visits and discussion at Becket House, the Kennebec County Jail, and the Behavioral Health Access Center. Prior to dinner, the delegates sat for interviews with local reporters, recapping their impressions of the week.

At the community dinner, "Thanksgiving in April," catered by REM at the Forum, the delegates were greeted by an enthusiastic group of about 60 community members and social service workers, who had come to hear the delegates' presentations about their work places at home in Kotlas. The scheduled question and answer session ended, but the conversations went on in informal groupings for the remainder of the friendly and productive evening. "We learned a lot from each other," remarked one Waterville guest.

The delegation's final day was as jam-packed as all the other days of the visit. Delegates began with a tour and meetings at the Alfond Youth Center; they had lunch at the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen, talking with Director Richard Willette, staff members, and diners; Mount Saint Joseph Residence and Rehabilitation staff discussed long-term care with the Russian guests; they ended the day at the Edmund N. Ervin Pediatric Center, where staff members showed them the facility and demonstrated some of the therapy equipment.

Their final evening was an informal pizza party, at which both the Russians and the Americans delivered many fond farewells. It had been a very busy week for these young, endlessly energetic professionals, full to the brim with new impressions and intense business discussions with their American peers. Exhilarated and weary, they returned to their host families to the task of packing up their bulging suitcases and more fond farewell moments. It was a memorable week for all the participants, both Russian and American, and everyone hopes that these initial contacts will continue and bring future fruitful exchange opportunities.

Open World Social Services Gifts to our friends Anna, Evgeniia, Aleksei, Galina, Olga, and Svetlana!