I have been familiar with the problem in orphanages for a long time. When I was 12, missionaries from the West often came to our city. I used to visit orphan children with them.
Before I had even won the competition, my friends and I learned that children are abandoned in every children's hospital. When we asked the doctors if there was any way we could help the kids, it was interesting to learn that besides diapers, clothes, and other necessary items, those kids just needed mere attention.
The newborn babies who lacked parental care for some reason, sometimes ended up spending 2 or 3 years in the hospital. It is obvious that two nurses cannot provide enough care and warmth to 20-30 kids at the same time. As a result, babies just lie lonely in their beds all day long.
Scientists have proven that newborn children may not properly develop with lack of physical touch. I vividly remember one two-year-old boy I saw in the hospital. Doctors made a diagnosis that he would never be able to walk; he couldn’t even get up to his feet. His parents couldn’t take care of him and decided to send him to an orphanage. All we did was began to help him exercise his legs, bought him a walker and prayed for him, and he began to walk! If you would embrace such a child, just wash him or her and give your love, it would not benefit only the child but you would notice that after each visit your heart would change and soften as well. It doesn’t require much money, only your desire and a little time.
After winning the competition in 2007 I decided to gain a deeper understanding of the problems that children face in orphanages and boarding schools. Therefore, in the summer after defending my diploma project, together with Lyudmila Michailovna Nesukh, the director of Kiev Slavistic University, Zakarpatsky Regional Branch, we decided to visit 20 children's homes, orphanages, and family-type children's homes. Besides communicating with the children and bringing them presents, our main goal was to understand the major needs of the kids living there. To do this, we spoke with the directors and teachers of these centers. Much to our astonishment, no one ever mentioned the financial difficulties the children were facing. The biggest problem of the orphan children is that after they "graduate" from the center where they have spent all their life, they leave to face a world they never lived in. The directors told us: “We raise them, teach them what we can, but at the age of 17 they are still absolutely unadapted to this world, having no experience and possibility to study, work, and establish a normal family…”
According to statistics only one year after leaving the orphanage, about 30% of graduates become homeless, 20% – criminals, and almost 10% - commit suicide. After all, they never grow up to make decisions for themselves because everything is decided for them in those child centers. When they go out and face real life, the young people are incapable of making their own decisions, are not accountable for their actions, and just are incapable of establishing contacts with other people. The worst part is that they give birth to their own children and send them to the same children’s homes they grew up in. As sociologists note, there are more orphan kids in our country now than there was during postwar years.
What can we do? I have been working with various organizations that have experience in these matters. Kids in children’s homes need not just toys, but our help in physical, intellectual, and spiritual development.
For instance we arranged for the children to experience what the holidays are like and arranged picnics where we spoke about their future, their wishes, and what they can do today to make their dreams come true. It is also important to sponsor teachers to come and teach foreign languages, computer literacy, and other professions.
But what about today’s graduates leaving orphanages, boarding schools, and children's homes?
The easiest way, in my opinion, is halfway houses with social workers. This might be a rented apartment for 5 girls or 5 boys to live together, supervised by a social worker who can help them properly address the issues they face every day. Once there, they would be allowed to stay for a year or two. The goal would be to ensure that they have adapted to a normal life style and not engage in theft, prostitution, and other disruptive activities.
I'm grateful to the Lord for changing my life in such a way!
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
- Jeremiah 29:11 (Bible)