Mission to Moscow My greatest concern about retirement from my university teaching position was what I would do. I wanted to try something new that I had a passion for, and also something that would use whatever expertise I had developed over a long career as a speech-language pathologist who worked with young ... World Beat
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World Beat  |   November 01, 2005
Mission to Moscow
Author Notes
  • Shirley N Sparks, is associate professor emerita at Western Michigan University, department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. She is recently retired as adjunct associate professor at Santa Clara University, department of Counseling Psychology and Education. She lives in Cupertino, CA. Contact her at s.sparks@comcast.net.
    Shirley N Sparks, is associate professor emerita at Western Michigan University, department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. She is recently retired as adjunct associate professor at Santa Clara University, department of Counseling Psychology and Education. She lives in Cupertino, CA. Contact her at s.sparks@comcast.net.×
Article Information
International & Global / World Beat
World Beat   |   November 01, 2005
Mission to Moscow
The ASHA Leader, November 2005, Vol. 10, 17. doi:10.1044/leader.WB2.10162005.17
The ASHA Leader, November 2005, Vol. 10, 17. doi:10.1044/leader.WB2.10162005.17
My greatest concern about retirement from my university teaching position was what I would do. I wanted to try something new that I had a passion for, and also something that would use whatever expertise I had developed over a long career as a speech-language pathologist who worked with young children and their families.
I found a natural fit with a curriculum called Celebrating Families!™, a substance-abuse prevention program being used in my community for families with a chemically dependent parent. When the opportunity arose to take the program to Russia with Prevention Partnerships International, I jumped at the chance. Four of us went to Moscow for 17 days in August, 2005. I was the only volunteer.
The purpose of our trip was to train the Russian trainers to present the program in their own schools, orphanages, and shelters for homeless and abandoned children. The training took place in a facility called OPORA (Russian for “support”) in downtown Moscow. All the sessions took longer than anticipated because everything had to be translated.
The training group comprised 25 professionals from all over Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Most came from backgrounds in psychology, social work, and health. All were dedicated to their constituencies of families ravaged by addiction. Some were in recovery themselves or had family members who were addicted or in recovery. They shared many personal stories with us as trust was built over the training time.
Certain sections of the curriculum felt natural to me, particularly family communication. As an SLP I had spent my career helping people to communicate. Our experience in the U.S. was that parents and caregivers in families with a substance-abuse problem lacked skills for communication within their own families, and this same lack of skills was perpetuated in the children. I stressed the importance of teaching family members how to listen to each other and the value of being heard. These parents may not understand when and how to praise their children, so affirmation became another skill to be taught. When I talked about fetal alcohol syndrome there were nods of recognition. They were well acquainted with the physical and behavioral signs of the disorder. I also presented some of the family activities for the trainers to use to bring families together and to resolve conflicts.
Our Russian friends assured us that they live in a free society now. But so many families are ravaged by alcohol addiction-one out of three families in Russia (one of four in the U.S.). I felt that our presence made a difference to these dedicated workers. At each session’s close we repeated these words from Al-Anon that exemplify volunteerism: “I put my hand in yours and together we can do what we could never do alone.”
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November 2005
Volume 10, Issue 16