Lapwing land / 2020 — 2021

This is a project about life of people with special needs at the summer tent camp “ Lapwing land” near St.Petersburg, Russia. The history of this camp began in 2009, when the charity organization “Podorozhnik” from St. Petersburg brought a group of children from a closed correctional children’s home outdoors and showed them the outside world. Children’s homes and psychoneurological internats are closed institutions in Russia and Post-Soviet states where people with physical and mental disabilities are sent if for some reason their families and relatives do not take proper care of them.

Initially the camp was attended by people who permanently lived in a psychoneurological internats. But over time, different people with mental and physical disabilities started visiting the “Lapwing land”. In 2017 a Russian philanthropist donated to the project a plot of land in the forest on the banks of the Tuksha river near St. Petersburg, where the camp is now located. The project aims to create a space for living, learning, and sharing experiences between volunteers and people with special needs. The attitude towards people with special needs in Russia is mostly prejusticed. For the majority of the people with special needs it is very difficult to socialise, to be independent and to take responsibility for their own lives; they stay unemployed, and have difficulties in communication with others. In this background, the “Lapwing land” summer camp is a place for experiments where one can learn to chop wood, build a fire, cook on a campfire, hunt mushrooms, and even drive a two-wheel tractor. A balance between the number of people with special needs and volunteers helps to create a space for trust and emotional connection.

The “Lapwing land” is a unique place for people with special needs to express themselves, to share their wishes and to be heard by others. The most important thing one learns in the camp is that after some time, you stop seeing people with special needs as “special”. Instead, you start to see more things that we all have in common, that we share worries, fears, and dreams. This is what unites us as people — regardless of our “special needs”. Today, an inclusive society is just beginning to take shape in Russia. Projects like the “Lapwing land” contribute to the creation of this kind of society in which each one of us is equal and special.