Russia (MNN) — Russian orphans “graduate” out of the system between the ages of 15-18 years old. But how do they adapt to life when it’s so abruptly forced on them?
“They go to school, but they don’t always have the life skills necessary to succeed after they leave the orphanage,”says Greg Mangione of SOAR International.
The Russian government gives children small stipends, but no one checks up on them to see how they’re doing or if they’ve found a job or a place to live. Instead, they’re left on their own.
Big Family Ministries reports most graduated orphans turn to drugs and alcohol, and 9 out of 10 end up in crime, prison, or prostitution.
Fortunately, in some cities like Ryazan, local churches have started up transition homes, which are exactly as they sound: they help graduated orphans transition into “real life” by giving a diverse array of classes.
“One of our main goals here at SOAR is to come alongside the local church and help assist and enable them in the ministries they have or would like to do in their communities.”
Most of the time, churches just need more manpower, some training, or tools; but sometimes they need fluent English speakers.
For the last two summers, SOAR has partnered with some local churches in Ryazan to help mentor kids both spiritually and in practical life skills.
“The youths that are living at the transition home right now have just really taken to the program; [they] enjoy the classes that they’re doing and the fellowship they have.” Some of the classes offered include cooking, sewing, agriculture, Bible, and English.
SOAR staff member Joanna Mangione and SOAR intern, Benjamin Roney, are helping to teach several of these classes. Near the end of Jul, 4 more SOAR staff members will be joining them.
“They use the English program as a way to minister to the community at large. They might use the Bible or verses as part of the curriculum that they would be using in teaching English,” Mangione explains.
“As they get to know people, of course you just use the personal relationships as an opportunity to share…with Christ with people that do not yet know Him.”
Mangione says since Roney is closer in age to graduated orphans, he’s able to connect better. “You also have the interest of somebody from another culture, and there’s just a natural interest they have in Ben.”
Roney has been working with students in their agricultural classes. Because he grew up on a family farm in Indiana, he was able to give advice and help build a garden with different produce.
But, he’s specifically been working on Bible lessons, asking kids what they’re curious about and helping them understand the meaning of baptism and salvation. Mangione says he’s had a great response.
As SOAR helps students build relationships and life skills, they ask for your prayer that workers will effectively share the Gospel and inspire others with their testimonies. Pray also for students to soak up the knowledge they’ve been given and to be better prepared for the future ahead of them.