The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 eliminated the social and economic support that had existed for people in need. Without government aid, many families found themselves unable to care for their children. These children ended up on the streets, in train stations and in abandoned buildings. If they were lucky, they wound up in an orphanage. It is those children in the orphanages that sparked the idea of Camp Siberia.
Camp SIberia was founded by Janie Ekberg of Bainbridge Island, Washington and Natasha Surukh of Novosibirsk, Russia. For twenty years the communities of these two cities cultivated a cross-cultural relationship through theater artist and student exchanges, some of which focused on the children in need. The idea of an American style summer camp came to fruition in the summer of 2001. At the same time a “scholarship” program for these orphans was established. This program provided mentorship and life skills training as well as allowing the kids to pursue their academic and vocational dreams. For 11 years teenagers from Bainbridge Island traveled to Russia to be counselors at Camp Siberia. Due to the changes in Russian law, 2011 was the last year Camp Siberia was held.
A CHANGE IN COURSE
Camp SIberia shifted its focus to Kitezh in June, 2013. Kitezh is a foster family community about 300 km southwest of Moscow. Named after a mythical city in a lake, Kitezh enriches the lives of those that live, work and volunteer at this magical place. In 2015 the organization changed its name to Bainbridge Island - Kitezh.
In December of 2016, Bainbridge Island - Kitezh was forced to rethink itself again. Moving into a more global realm, we made a trip to Nepal in 2017, in conjunction with Global Vision International (GVIUSA.com). Since then we have traveled to Kathmandu, Pokhara and surrounding areas volunteering where needed and learning about the culture of this special country. While our official name is still Bainbridge Island - Kitezh we are known as BI-K Nepal. In the future we might go to Thailand and go by BI-K Thailand or venture off to India and use BI-K India. No matter where we go we remain devoted to our mission:
We are great kids doing great work!