Water is a colorless and odorless liquid, but with character. She obediently takes the form of a pool and at the same time educates, makes stronger and even heals. At least, this is exactly what happens to children in the city of Kursk on Mylnikova Street, where the NaNo-Kids children’s development center is located. We tell the story of social entrepreneur Olga Sukhorukova, who once brought her children to the wrong pool and then decided to create the right one at all costs.
On a summer day, on the breakwater in Alushta, bathed in bright sunshine, a man and a four-year-old boy were preparing for a swim. The boy — so it seemed from the outside — did not really want to go into the water: he walked behind his father slowly, stumbling, and awkwardly holding a towel, and looked tense. But then his father led him to the edge of the pier and commanded: “Come on, Vadim!”. They jumped together, and the boy entered the water so precisely, swam so quickly and evenly, with such noticeable professional acumen, that exclamations of approval were heard all around. “But I wanted to jump along the pier and shout: “Yes, yes, we go to NaNo-children, we are cool!” Tatyana Barbatunova, Vadim’s mother, says. “Because you know, Vadim does a lot of things “wrongly”, and it was important for me to feel that he was good at something.”
Once, astronaut Armstrong, stepping on the surface of the moon, uttered a completely historical and well-known phrase: «This is a small step for a person, but a giant leap for humanity.» So, on the Alushta breakwater that day, something opposite happened, but also important — maybe for all mankind the step turned out to be small (although who knows what great steps are made of), but before the eyes of the resort public there was a giant leap for one small person. Vadim Barbatunov has an organic lesion of the nervous system and a gross delay in psycho-speech development, it is difficult for him to take every step in general, he walks, stammering, often falls — but he swims perfectly. In the water, he is a genius and an astronaut. For the most part, because for a year and ten months he was driven by the pool of the NaNo-children children’s center — «for infants and preschool children, including children with developmental disabilities», which was opened in Kursk by social entrepreneur Olga Sukhorukova.
Olga Sukhorukova is very pretty. She is a tall, stately blonde, Central Russian and German blood mixed in her. Her maiden name is Muller; and when she entered the Kursk State Technical University (now Southwestern), her future husband, a young brilliant applicant,
seeing in the list of those accepted — O. Muller — he joked: “The kid with the last name was not lucky!” Well, Kursk is still a city with a special memory — and — well, there are such jokes that determine the rest of your life.
But it’s not about looks, it’s about character. Olga is infinitely obligatory and accurate, she is an excellent organizer, and it is interesting to trace the origins of her business culture. In many ways, Olga leads her business principles from family history. Olga Sukhorukova’s grandfather was a well-known person in Kursk, a director with connections, a man of crystal honesty — and he had the nickname “Grandfather” precisely because when Olga was born, he was so happy that he jumped around his office shouting “I am a grandfather!”, “I am a grandfather !»
Kursk, a residential area, a small red-brick shopping cluster with a green figured roof. The owners of the building are Muscovites, former Kursk people who have made a successful business in the capital. In the basement there is a white tile, a reception (the diplomas of the club’s coaches are placed above the counter), a colorful games room and two frame pools, which in professional slang are called an ancient and not exactly sports word — «baths». In the pools there is an abundance of children’s educational toys, sports rings hang above one font: a jerk up out of the water is one of the most important exercises for the musculoskeletal system. By the way, these rings were ordered only at Wildberry — only brutal shells were in Kursk sports stores. Black and rough.
The lesson is led by Tatyana Gulyaeva — small, slender, very lively — it was she who taught Vadim Barbatunov to swim. But now she has in her hands a very small person a few months old — Tatyana is babbling, the person is goggling, a young tired mother is standing by the side of the pool and enjoys a break. Because her daughter has an increased tone, in which massage is always prescribed. Meanwhile, swimming helps faster and better, and what every experienced parent will tell you about a child with tone is a child who screams almost all the time when he is awake.
Infant and preschool swimming is all the rage right now – but what is this early development method? What is a pool for a small child?
— That’s all, — says Lyudmila Alekseevna Fedyaeva, the most experienced trainer-instructor of the center, — Water relaxes. Water gives energy. It both hardens and strengthens. It is needed for both healthy children and children with special health needs. She is where we came from. Young children still remember mother’s water, an anabiotic liquid in which they grew up for nine months. But we are not mystics, but teachers and athletes. And we know that any development, any activity with a child is better than the absence of it. Children in the pool develop faster — if only because any acceleration and any sport help to reveal children’s potential. But water gives more than we expect from it.
Olga Sukhorukova opened her first swimming pool in 2012 in the very center of Kursk, on Radishchev Street. Now, after the pandemic, this very first and most famous location of hers is closed — but Olga, in any case, opened all her new pools and planned to open them in residential areas. Her idea is children’s centers within walking distance. The sleeping area is an ideal place for a point of business activity «about children». True, when she opened her first «sleeping» pool on the first floor of a residential building, she experienced the usual story of a neighbor’s confrontation. Especially good was the lady who wrote to Rosportebnadzor a complaint that because of the children’s pool, her socks did not dry on the balcony. Now Olga chooses only stand-alone premises. But how did she get the idea for this particular business?
— Traditionally. It is generally accepted that those who, for personal reasons, faced a problem and were looking for a solution are engaged in social business. Here I have something in the same vein. I was looking for a sports section for my eldest son. Everyone answered — come, but only after five years. And then I saw an ad: «A set for a children’s pool from 3 years old.» Wonderful! Together with my godfather, we bought boards for swimming, swimwear, and went to improve our health. And I probably made the biggest mistake of my life — I didn’t go to that children’s pool first. Although usually I am very vigilant. In general, we go into the pool, and I smell a sharp smell of chlorine. Great — an ignorant person will say: they clean it so they clean it, it’s itchy in the eyes. But I knew that only decomposed chlorine gives a strong smell, that is, dirty water smells like that, in which chlorine was, but did not cope. In general, the next day our children became seriously ill with an adenovirus infection — this is the most common disease in children’s pools. Both: Anechka and my Seryozha. Serezha infected my youngest child, Kolenka, who was six months old. Kolya developed a severe blood complication. It was a very difficult period in my life. We spent a year in hospitals. And all this time, a simple idea lived in my head: «Can’t the pool be clean?» .
When it was over, I decided to close the gestalt and make a flawless children’s pool of its kind. I studied the instructions of Rospotrebnadzor, we purchased ultraviolet disinfectants.
Disinfection we now use active oxygen preparations in water — they do not contain chlorine and do not cause allergies even in children who are sick with atopic dermatitis. Plus, water circulates and undergoes systemic disinfection through ultraviolet light and a copper ionizer.
When telling her story, of all verbs, Olga most often pronounces the verb “could”: “I was able to prove to myself and to everyone else that it is possible to have a pool with actually drinking water.” “I was able to abandon the usual practice of baby swimming, when “mother and child” goes into the water, because the presence of an adult in the water, even with all the certificates, is a bacteriological hazard factor. And, besides, mommy, no matter how you teach her, will not do absolutely competently either support, during which the child’s cervical vertebrae are stabilized in the water, or diving. “I was able to refuse group classes — although this is extra money for the business. In our fonts there is only a professional coach and a child. And clean water.
COVID, «Our Future» and rent
— When we were “opened” in the second half of July, like the whole country, — says Olga, — we were preparing to sit near the empty fonts, and wait for individual daredevils. But as soon as the pool opened, people rushed into the river. The record broke on the first day. We thought — why is everyone so fearless? Of course, people know that we are sterile — but still inexplicable. I think the children’s theme after the pandemic shoots so powerfully because children are a movement, the embodiment of time. Parents want to do everything. Here, our clients gave birth in February, they wanted to go to us for baby swimming, and here it is already August, and the child is already seven months old. He will soon go into the pool with his feet.
During the months of the pandemic, social entrepreneur Olga Sukhorukova kept a low-profit business with a staff of ten people. Nobody was fired. It’s an achievement, after all.
“At the end of March, we, like the whole country, closed down,” says Olga, “For the first week, I’m sorry, I was itching all over because of nervousness. Then she sobbed for several days. Then she took up occupational therapy. I washed the windows, washed the curtains and scrubbed the floor. And then distance learning began for my two sons — one in elementary school — and I realized that it’s easier to wash all the curtains of the world than this. And then it was already necessary to meet the challenge face to face. You and your business And ten people in the state, many of whom have been working for 8 years, and you are a factor of stability for them.
The first month we had a margin of safety, a winter financial cushion, which I always form. January and February are bad months for us. January is short, post-holiday, everyone is swinging for a long time, many are leaving. February is a weird month. Just bad. Short and cold, so a lot of SARS. But in March we usually start the season. And this year, it seems to have come to an end. And on the second month the money ran out. I received a presidential grant, and in April-May we received a subsidy from the state. They paid the minimum wage, but people were happy about this too — because half of the city’s entrepreneurs received this subsidy and the workers were not paid, but put into their own pockets.
June was pulled through thanks to a covid loan from VTB Bank. Actually, I try not to take loans, because my husband is a banking professional, and he does not advise taking business loans.
And professionals should be obeyed. Honestly, I didn’t even immediately admit to him that I had taken it. And my deep gratitude to the fund «Our Future». Even before the coronavirus crisis, I took an interest-free loan from them for five years to open a second pool, and the last tranche had to be returned just in the pandemic months. But the fund acted nobly — postponed payments and helped us survive this period.
The most difficult thing in a small business is the relationship with the landlord. Personnel, client problems are nothing compared to the story called “rent”. Now the landlord raises Olga’s price by 13 percent. It seems that 13 percent is not death. But Olga understands that the landlords cook her like a frog over low heat. And not only her.
Russian rentiers generally have a special mentality. It would seem that the survival of small businesses is now low, and landlords could reduce prices. But no. Never. As well as housing and communal services workers — only slowly upwards — it is not clear why, it is not clear for what objective reasons. And if your equipment is tightly built into the room, like Olga’s, then you are a hostage. The price of changing the location is too high, the landlords understand that such an entrepreneur will leave only as a last resort. Therefore, social business is dreaming of amendments to the law on social entrepreneurship.
— We want one thing — at least minimal stability. In the eight years that I have been in business, the price of renting my premises has risen two and a half times. And the income of our clients is not growing, but falling. It is necessary to legally fix some kind of limit on unreasonable growth of rent — so that we are not blackmailed every year …
This year Olga Sukhorukova won the Presidential grant and was able to implement the project “Special voyage. Hydrorehabilitation and swimming training for children with disabilities” using a grant from the President of the Russian Federation provided by the Presidential Grants Fund. In the competition, each project receives a special score. And everyone who scored points above the passing one (and every year is different), become winners. The system is a bit similar to the exam. The project of Olga Sukhorukova scored 74. 25 points, the passing was 60. An excellent student, what can you say.
Olga received money to help forty children. Now forty children with disabilities receive twenty free classes at NaNo-Kids. And Vadim Barbatunov is now studying for free. And by the way, as a result of classes, he began to speak.
— When syllables began to appear in his speech, — says Tatyana Barbatunova, — I began to analyze at what moments the child breaks into speech — and it turned out, precisely in those moments when we went to the pool more often. Now Vadim has already gone to school, while in a correctional one — but I remember our first classes at NaNo-Kids. He yelled and fought every minute in the water. He was generally inadequate. And Tanya Gulyaeva held him under the head with her palm, and led, did not leave, did not let go. Now the pool is a crazy happiness — both for him and for his youngest daughter. We are now doing all the tests by blackmail: under the threat of not going to the «kids» they are ready for anything.
There is still in this story, despite its scale, something quiet, most importantly, family. In Olga’s children’s pools, 1,700 children took part in eight years. And each of them was led in a font and taught to move and breathe. And talk. And grab the blue Wildberry rings.