Sobering statistics.. kids that grow up in an orphanage in Ukraine:
1 of 2 become involved in criminal activity
1 in 5 will become homeless
1 in 7 will committ suicide
This is a big topic, and we’re still learning, but I thought it would be good to inform our friends and family what we’ve been up to in this area. Deb and I have always had a desire to ‘eventually’ get involved in this work, at what level we’re still not certain. I like to know what we’re getting into though, I enjoy meeting people, learning from them, and also like to see other people grab hold of things and released into areas of ministry that is fullfililng. So, with a few new families in the area that are also interested in doing something, we began meeting a few weeks ago, praying and talking about a strategy.
Step 1 – get a map, locate the orphanages in our region, and surrounding regions.
– there are approx 120 orphanages in Ukraine, a registered orphans (those without parents and available to adopt) in the 25,000 range. In our region there are 2 orphanges, each with about 15 orphans in them, and 70 total orphans in our region (some in foster type homes).
Not sure why they built the entrance so short, Deb hasn’t grown that much!
Step 2 – visit government directors, those in charge of the foster home process (which is brand new here in Ukraine, the government wants to get rid of the old orphanage model, it was instituted originally because of all the WWII casualities, and then became a permanent structure with the breakdown of the family). There is a process now by which a family, even foreign family, can go through a quick course, a bunch of paperwork, then open a ‘family house’, which will allow up to 10 children, some are ‘adoptable’, others are in a temp state where parental rights have been taken away and in the courts. In our region, there are only a couple ‘family’ houses, and a few families in our church that are interested in this. We had the director and her assistant over for dinner last week, they are very nice and helpful.
We also went to the Regional directors office this week, and introduced ourselves. The regional folks oversee what happens in the actual orphanages, who is allowed to visit etc. They were very nice, we took notes and learned what the needs are, how to help etc. They encouraged us to search out and help local families in need, becaues the government doesn’t help these cases. Some are very sad, such as when parents die, and kids are left with one grandparent who can’t really take care of them. The need is pretty overwhelming, many cases of children malnurished and in unhealthy conditions. The primary issue among the culture is alcoholism, children are taken away primarily because of alcolohic and thus abusive or negligent parents.
Step 3- Visit the local Orphanages. We did this today, Deb, Tom, Svetlana and two of our kids visited two orphanges. Not all the children were there because summer holidays have begun and some get to travel (summer camps are still big, leftover from communism, they collectively go for 1-2 months, parents are happy to get rid of them, orphanage directors happy to get a break too). Many missionary activities take place around these camps, I remember Teen Mania and others hosting weeks of the camps, loving the kids and spreading the gospel.
*picture of flooring needing to be replaced, it used to be their coat/change room but now is too dangerous.
*deb posing (with her new short dark hair!) in the kids entertainment/living room. Svetlana in background.
*backyard, they grow a garden, teach the kids work ethic and responsibility. Outhouse is open 24hrs.
I think it’s becoming less popular, although for children at the orphanage it’s a fun time and better than hanging out at the orphanage for 2 months waiting for school to start. Both fo the orphanages are located directly next to a school. This allows the kids to go to school with everyone else, which is good. They each have their own dorm style areas, eating hall/room, shared bathroom. Because these two orphanages aren’t huge like some of them that have 200 kids in them, we felt the kids were pretty well taken care of and received a good amount of attention. The directors are key, the two we met are very open, and thankful for any help/ participation (but you need to follow the rules and go through the right people).
One orphanage is only 5 minutes away, the other 20 minutes away. The one 20 minutes away (bortee) has a wonderful Christian director who has a great burden for the kids. She is a ‘go getter’ and has gone after private/charity funds, and been able to build a nice kitchen, modern bathrooms, and if she was in America she’d be a great ‘marketer’ or “pr” spokesperson, she was pitching to us needs every other minute as we walked around. They know the government is out of money, and she’s doing whatever she can to solicit funds for the kids welfare. You can tell that her and her husband have sacrificed a lot for the kids, and God is working in her life. Hillsong church in Kiev has helped them in the past, they used to shuttle them to Kiev 2’xs per week for english and bible lessons, and church on sunday. You can tell they are REALLY open to western help. This place was not open 3 yrs ago, but is now, it’s due to the directors attitude and willingness to work with others. Many other orphanages aren’t as blessed, with old school directors and people in places of power that don’t have the childrens best interest at heart, we are happy to know that in our area we have legitimate opportunity to help and be Christs hands and feet to the orphaned.
We’re going to pray and think about some projects and things we can do. We know the main need they have actually are shoes. I’m asking the July Texans group to bring over some shoes. They also need socks and underwear, often the staff at the orphanges bring extras from their own family because there isn’t enough help from the government. I’ve purchased the domain name www.shoesfororphans.com and considering building a simple site that will allow friends like you to sponsor a child with a pair of shoes.. it wouldn’t cost very much, may $5-10 per kid, and we could really use that sort of thing to get into more orphanages where even greater need exists.
Lastly (for now), we have the opportunity to open our homes for a saturday or weekend to some kids to come and be a part of our family 1-2 times per month. This, in our view is much more impactful than going to teach a bible lesson or play with them ‘at’ the orphanage. For a kid to eat with you and your family at the supper table, to play together as a family, see your kids respect and honor the parent, cook with mama, go to the store with the papa… for those that aren’t able to commit to adoption or a full time fostering situation, I think this could be a wonderful opportunity for the church here to get involved and naturally share the love of God. The neat thing is that this only requires some paperwork, no courses, and both directors were keen to allow such a situation for their kids. The kids leaving orphanages are vastly underprepared for life, how to handle money, get a job, cook.. there is simply no replacement for God’s intended design, the family, it’s a beautiful thing, go hug your kids!
Adoption.. that is another topic that we are investigating and eventually will share about. We want to visit some baby orphanages, they are much harder to get into. Lord willing, this will be an area that we learn enough about and can help facilitate for indigenous and foreign families. There’s a lot of interest on this side to start an agency like this, I somehow get myself in positions where people are looking at me saying, “ok, good idea, so when will we start this..” and so i need your prayer, for timing, wisdom, and all those things necessary to honor God well in our efforts.
Our family is great, it’s really hot out this week (80-90’s). Preparing for the July group, in Ukraine they don’t prepare much in advance for anything so I’m learning to not stress too much and be prepared to quickly make things happen last minute… God be glorified.
[noah and clark chasing down some mafia criminals]
Bruce & Deb