Friday, November 9, 2007

Russia Physician Leads New Organization Committed to Saving Children From The Streets - Interview With Dr. Svetlana Suvorova

DTC Executive Director
Svetlana Suvorova

Dr. Svetlana Suvorova is the Executive Director of Doctors To Children (DTC), a St. Petersburg-based NGO that provides medical and social services to street and at-risk children, youth, and families.  In 2001, HealthRight International (formerly Doctors of the World-USA) helped to establish DTC as a local NGO to serve as a key partner in the administration of programs for street at-risk children, youth, and families. DTC is a joint initiative of doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and teachers. Dr. Suvorova, a clinical cardiologist, has extensive experience working with at-risk populations in Russia. She was the original Project Coordinator of HealthRight’s MAMA+ Project for HIV-positive mothers in St. Petersburg, served as a project coordinator for a Russian NGO working with IDUs, and has worked as a nurse providing care to children born to HIV+ mothers. HealthRight interviewed her in St. Petersburg. 

What role does HealthRight play in your work?
SS: HealthRight has shared its extensive experience working with vulnerable populations, and supports DTC in generating new ideas and developing innovative services for target groups.   
What role do you think foreign NGOs can and should play in Russia?
SS: The main role of foreign NGOs in Russia is to share their positive experiences with local organizations in order to prevent them from making mistakes that have already been made by their forerunners. Russia is currently facing numerous social problems which in the past did not exist or were not recognized by Russian society. Our country is in the initial stages of addressing these issues. Foreign NGOs provide local organizations with positive experiences and effective models of support for vulnerable groups.    
How have Russian government authorities and organizations responded to DTC and HealthRight’s work?  Has your work influenced or changed how they address the needs of street and at-risk children and youth, including those who are living with HIV? 
SS: DTC has gained broader visibility among government authorities and organizations. These institutions have become more interested in our innovative ideas and approaches, which is evidenced by our continued development of partnerships with government institutions. Additionally, DTC is supported by the City Government and has recently been awarded several grants by the Labor and Social Protection Committee and the Youth Policy Committee. Over time, the new services developed by HealthRight and DTC are integrated into government systems.
Moreover, HealthRight and DTC assist social welfare agencies in the professional development of their staff by conducting specialized training events – seminars, workshops, and supervision sessions – in order to expand their knowledge and teach them about our best practices. As a result of joint activities between HealthRight/DTC and government institutions, specialists representing government institutions have become more tolerant to certain client groups, in particular people living with HIV/AIDS.   
How has the situation for street and at-risk children and youth in St. Petersburg changed since DTC & HealthRight launched their programs?
SS: Once an isolated group, street youth have begun to receive access to medical and social services. The joint activities of DTC/HealthRight and government agencies have helped health and social service professionals become closer to this population, and clients have become more empowered to apply for medical and social assistance.