Unique Children’s Centre “Raduga” under threat

The Centre for Developing Children’s Creativity “Raduga” (“Rainbow”) was created by a group of volunteers from the cooperative enterprise “Starostin Cinema” and has been working in Odessa for the last 7 years. Hundreds of children from one and a half to 15, including children with congenital disorders, have had the opportunity to discover their abilities, painting skills, logic and mathematics, art and crafts. They have held exhibitions and festivals which attract full audiences. The smaller children have their own pre-school activities. “Raduga” students have received awards in numerous creative festivals and competitions. Children with serious health problems study at the Centre free of charge.

All of the equipment etc needed has been provided by the collective and with the help of parents of the children studying there.

End of the rainbow?
In October 2008 the Odessa City Council out of the blue passed a decision to create a new commercial cultural centre called “Slobodka” which will supposedly broaden the range of educational services provided to the public. In fact, after closer inspection of the plan it became clear what kinds of services are envisaged: a solarium, night clubs, game machines, bars, bowling, etc. Not a word about children.

There was animated discussion following which many of these “services” were removed, and mention was made of activities for children. The decision was passed by a majority of one vote.

The Director of this new “cultural establishment” swiftly presented “Raduga” with a demand to vacate the premises. Encountering resistance, since this would have left the centre and the kids out on the street, a new method was chosen. The concessionary rent arrangement was cancelled, and from January 2009 exorbitant rent was to be charged (only to Raduga, not the new centre).

An appeal to the Mayor resulted in a formal fob-off in no way acknowledging that the plans agreed by the City Council will mean that 250 children lose a vital centre for activities and development.

Tetyana Sluchanska, the Director of the newly created establishment has clearly tired of waiting for the situation to be resolved. She turned up on 3 February with a “support group” – strong young guys from an organization under the control of the city authorities, who began smashing the locks. When the police arrived, they made some phone calls, then engaged in talks with the police officers, after which a protocol was drawn up and the police left, suggesting that the “Raduga” instructors could take the mayor to court.
There have been parents’ meetings, meetings with members of the City Council who say that they had no idea what was planned, and are now creating a working group to look into the situation. What happens now largely depends on the city authorities and whether the working group is able to exert influence on the Mayor and Council so that “Slobodka” receive other premises.

An appeal has been sent by Raduga, signed by many parents, to the Chairtable Fund “Ukraine 3000” which is headed by First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko.
“Anna Likhanina”, Director of Raduga, stresses: “We are not asking anybody to sell or give us the premises, let them remain the property of the city authorities. We are not asking for any money from the State, we have found sponsors among the public of Odessa who care about the fate of children in our city. We have a team of enthusiasts who like children and know how to work with them. We want only one thing: to be able to continue our work. Give us the chance to create for the city, for Ukraine, a real children’s oasis, where all children, regardless of their parents’ financial situation, can feel at home”.

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