Posted by: Through the Eyes of Women | November 8, 2010

November 8, 2010 Host Danielle Orr Speaks with Pam Mendelson

Pam Mendelsohn, KHSU’s Development Director from 1989 though 1992, has been involved with disability rights work in the former Soviet Union since her daughter Bekah flew the coop for NYC in 1992.  Working for the World Institute on Disability (WID) in Oakland, she made 13 trips to the former Soviet Union between 1993 and 1998 to lead workshops on how to use the media as an agent for social change.  In 2005, when mainstream education was just beginning in Russia, she created a project called Building Bridges:  Cameras in the Hands of Children, pairing up disabled and non-disabled kids for a series of photographic activities.  The project began with 10 students, most of the kids with disabilities, ages 14 to 17, having never been in a school.  That project was submitted to a Moscow-wide competition for most innovative programming and came in second.  In 2007, Mendelsohn went back to do a training of trainers, other photographers, and 26 children from 3 schools participated in the project.  Also in 2007, Mendelsohn was involved with UNICEF photographer Giacomo Pirozzi’s photographic workshop in Moscow.  Today, Mendelsohn’s curriculum has been replicated throughout Russia, including summer camps. 

The organization in Russia that is at the forefront of disability rights is Perspektiva, a Russian NGO that grew out of WID’s Moscow office.  The office has a staff of 50 people, mostly people with disabilities.  To check out Perspektiva and its extraordinary activities, go to .  This past June, Mendelsohn and Denise Roza, the executive director of Perspektiva, presented at the VSA conference in Washington DC about the Building Bridges Project.  VSA ( ) was started by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith 35 years ago as an international nonprofit organization  to create a society where people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts. Each year 7 million people participate in VSA programs through a nationwide network of affiliates and in 51 countries around the world.

Here is an excerpt from the Enabling Education Network Newsletter.

Building bridges, Russia
Denise Roza, Pam Mendelsohn and Yulia Simonova
Perspektiva is a Russian NGO that promotes inclusion in education and in society for people with disabilities. Its inclusive education programmes are supported by UNICEF and USAID. It has organised film festivals around disability and inclusion since 2002 and understands the power of images. One of its goals is to empower people with disabilities to be leaders and to bring about change in schools and the wider community. In this article Denise, Pam and Yulia explain about a project that helped students to acquire new skills, take pictures about their lives, and learn about and from each other.  “This photo workshop taught me to ‘catch the moment’” Zhenya Shirkina is 12 years old and is in the 7th grade.  She does everything with her feet, including eating, writing and painting, as she was born without arms. She has many friends at school, takes classes in drawing and painting, and dreams of becoming a professional photographer or an interpreter. 

8, 2-Frunzenskaya, Moscow
119146, Russia
Tel: +7(495)245-68-79,
Fax +7(495)245-68-79

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