Spurred into action by the Beslan school siege, Natalia founded the charity with the aim of constructing modern play parks in urban areas of Russia. Desperate to do something to help, she had a simple idea – if the young survivors could be distracted by play for at least five minutes each day, it would help them to heal. Providing them with safe outdoor play facilities would redefine their city landscape and act as a form of therapy.
Struck by the contrast between her sister’s upbringing in a loving family home and the lives of the children she met on her visits to orphanages, children’s hospitals and rehabilitation centres, Natalia started to think about what more she could do that would be useful. The Naked Heart Foundation team looked at countries where there were no children’s homes or orphanages for children with disabilities, and sought the advice of leading Russian specialists. As a result, in 2011 the Every Child Deserves a Family programme aimed at providing support for families raising children with special needs was launched.
The Naked Heart Foundation wants every child to have access to a vibrant, safe and stimulating place to play. Every neighbourhood, children’s hospital and children’s home should have a modern play area that is suitable for all children, whatever their physical ability. They believe that play is a necessity, not a luxury – and that’s exactly why they are turning empty wastelands and grey cityscapes into beautiful places to play.
The Naked Heart Foundation believes that play brings children together. Their facilities are constructed in such a way that all children may enjoy them, regardless of their physical capabilities. As a rule, all their play parks and playgrounds are equipped with special features that allow children with disabilities or in wheelchairs to join in.
The Naked Heart Foundation aims to make sure that no child with living parents ends up in an orphanage or a children’s home. They are working to tackle the stigma of disability, so that no parent feels pressurised to give up a disabled child. And they are working with families who have made the challenging decision to keep their disabled child at home, in order to give them free access to a full range of services and the support of specialists familiar with international best practice and modern technology.
The Naked Heart Foundation believes that truly helping children requires the input of society as a whole, and that by helping to bring about reform we will improve the quality of life for each and every child.
The Naked Heart Foundation is also convinced that if each of us contributes (even the tiniest amount) to a common cause, our children’s lives can be transformed.
Playgrounds and play parks
To date, the Foundation has built 108 play parks and playgrounds across Russia, including a number at orphanages and children’s hospitals, an oncology centre and various rehabilitation centres. Our play facilities are located in 82 towns across Russia, from Kaliningrad to Sovetskaya Gavan.
First park in Moscow designed for children with learning disabilities
Moscow’s first ever playground adapted to meet the special needs of children with learning disabilities has been officially unveiled at the Centre for Curative Paedadogics in Moscow.
At first glance, the playground might seem completely ordinary. However, that is not the case – all the playground equipment is adapted to meet the needs of children with disabilities.
The soft colours used for certain items in the playground are specifically designed to suit children with autism. The seesaw, which was acquired from a European manufacturer, takes into account the needs of children with cerebral palsy.
The natural landscape plays an important role in the playground – in summertime kids can walk around barefoot on the grass, thus developing their sensitivity to different surfaces, and in wintertime they can ice skate.
This is the Foundation’s 104th play facility and while almost all of them are equipped with special zones for children in wheelchairs, this is the first park in Moscow designed for children with learning disabilities.
The budget for the playground amounted to 2,964,032.20 roubles (US$ 93,000).
The playground was developed by experts who work with children with special needs, in collaboration with designer Tatiana Protasova and specialists from KSIL, the only company in Russia that holds full European certification with regard to equipment quality and safety.
Russia’s first ever playground adapted to meet the special needs of children with learning disabilities has been built at Children’s Home No. 4 near St. Petersburg.
This is the Foundation’s 103rd play facility and the very first play park that has been specifically designed for children with learning disabilities.
Constructed at a children’s home in Pavlovsk, the project was specially developed by designer Tatiana Protasova, one of the Foundation’s long-term collaborators, and specialists from KSIL, the only company in Russia that holds full European certification with regard to equipment quality and safety.
The budget for the playground was 7,735,603.40 roubles (equivalent to approximately €178,000). The roundabouts for wheelchairs and the seesaws were made in Europe, since no Russian manufacturer is able to produce this kind of equipment yet.
NHF’s 100th play park
On Friday 30th August, Natalia presented the children and young people of Nizhny Novgorod with a huge new play area measuring almost 3,000 square metres, built by her charity on a patch of wasteland within the town’s “Shveitsariya” (“Switzerland”) Park.
The play park, which is the only one of its kind in the town and is equipped with a professional rollerdrome for BMX bikers, skateboarders and rollerbladers, an integrative zone for children with musculo-skeletal disorders, a play zone for very young children and sports and exercise equipment, was financed by the Naked Heart Foundation. The funds were raised in the form of thousands of private and corporate donations. The Foundation was also involved in preparing the ground, delivering and assembling the equipment and the landscape design. The project was supported by the park administration, which organised landscaping work, security and lighting installation and agreed to ensure the facility’s future maintenance and cleaning.
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