Graduation isn’t good for orphans in Russia

By July 8, 2013

Russia (MNN) — Graduation is typically a good thing, right? Not when you're an orphan in Russia. That word means you're aging out of the orphanage and have to take care of yourself.

At age 17-19, these young people are forced into the real world, leaving a system that has done little to prepare them. Few have jobs or money. If they do, they don't know how to manage it. Most aren't sure how to buy clothing, go grocery shopping, or even make everyday decisions. They can do those things, but they typically don't look for bargains and aren't wise in their decision-making.

As a result, orphan graduates end up homeless, hungry, and worse: involved in crime and prostitution.

The Orphan Outreach Orphan Graduate program addresses those physical needs. OO's Director of Programs Amy Norton says these graduates get very little support from the state. "They need everything: basic needs–food and clothing. Sometimes it's tuition for school. Mostly, it's day-to-day needs."

While orphans are guaranteed a room to live in by the state, Norton says, "They have no furniture. They need repairs done, usually urgently. They have no funds to be able to do that, so we try to raise funds for them to do that."

You can help these young people who have been through the most difficult life experiences you can imagine. "We have sponsors who provide $36 a month to support a graduate…. It goes toward the most urgent needs that they have."

Financial support is essential, and spiritual support is, as well. "We really want them to be plugged into the local church and have mentors from the church — perhaps the rest of their lives," says Norton.

Orphan graduates meet weekly together with an Orphan Outreach social worker who helps them with issues they're dealing with. They also have Bible study to help them search Scripture to answer many of their life's questions.

This week, MNN's Greg Yoder met many orphan graduates who have been helped by Orphan Outreach:

Lyosha is a 22-year-old who is learning computer programming at the university. His parents lost custody of him at a young age because of alcohol and substance abuse. His relatives couldn't take care of him because of the economy in the 1990s, so he ended up in the orphanage. While thankful for the care he received in the orphanage, he wasn't ready to live on his own. At age 18 he aged out of the orphanage, but decided to go to school. Orphan Outreach has helped him with basic needs and assistance to renovate his one-room apartment. Lyosha has come to Christ and attends Bible study regularly. Pray for him. He is trying to renovate his one-room apartment and needs funding and time.

Vava is an artist. When he aged out of the orphanage, he ended up heading back to his hometown, but he had nowhere to go. He traveled back to St. Petersburg only to discover there were people who were trying to take advantage of him. Vova is an accomplished artist. Orphan Outreach helped get him the prep school training he needed to enter art school. Art supplies, books, and tuition helped Vova make it. They also provide him food, clothing, and other essentials to help him survive. He's still studying, but now he's restoring art and is quite successful at it.

Ekaterina is a young lady who was in the system as long as she can remember. She recalls that the caregivers took good care of her, but she didn't feel like she was getting the love she needed. After graduating from the orphanage, she took care of her dying father who had lost all rights to her. Orphan Outreach actually lost touch with Katya. However, she realized she needed to change her behavior and make something of herself. Despite the trials in her life, she understands the need to do what's right. She's working while trying to finish tourism school. She's thankful to Norton of Orphan Outreach who showed her love and compassion during her days at the orphanage. She says that trusting relationship is what helped her begin to trust others again. Orphan Outreach is helping her with tuition. She is also working to provide for her basic needs.

Alyona is an young woman who doesn't remember when she wasn't in the orphanage. She watched her father kill her mother. Caregivers were concerned about her. She appears to be hard on the outside. But, she's driven to succeed. She received training in art restoration and was able to save some money to make renovations to the apartment left to her by her family. Unfortunately, a skilled tradesman took advantage of her and stole the money. She then took out a loan to complete the process, not understanding the high interest rates. Orphan Outreach is helping her repay that loan, and helping her with other expenses. She has learned from her mistakes and has a very positive attitude. She's thankful for Orphan Outreach and the help she's been given.

The needs for orphan graduates is huge. Since adoptions have come to almost a complete stand-still, these young people will need even more help. The only thing holding Orphan Outreach back is funding and volunteers. Your gift of $36 a month can help support an orphan graduate with needed supplies and help them hear the Gospel. You can sponsor a graduate, or give generously to help with apartment renovations.

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