Latvia’s upheaval leaves the vulnerable at risk

By June 8, 2011

Latvia (MNN) — The World Bank is lending Latvia $142 million to improve its
social safety nets.

With the country emerging from the austerity measures it took
in 2008 at the height of the global financial crisis, many of its
infrastructure services got cut. According to the International Monetary Fund,
this round of funding is supposed to help
national and local government agencies with child development programs, cover
the cost of transporting students, exempt needy households from certain medical
expenses, and improve access to basic
health care services.

However, Tiffany Taylor with Orphan Outreach says
unfortunately the small private groups have already been told not to expect
government help. Without help, the
poorest of the poor will fall through the cracks. "We have not heard that it would actually go to these programs. These
programs have been told not to count on any additional funds at all."

In the meantime, more political turmoil over the last three
weeks has resulted in the dissolution of the national legislature and the
election of a new president, Andris Berzins.

The government says the settling in won't have much impact
on the day-to-day operations, but Taylor says every minute counts for the kids
they're helping at the Karosta Day Center in Liepaja. "Many
of the children that we are working with literally have nothing to eat. The
only meal that they get is the one meal that they are getting at this Day
Center. Before they came to the Day Center, they were literally scrounging in
trash for food."

Taylor goes on to say that the families living in this Naval Port area
are desperately poor. "Most of the families
there are actually Russian descendants that are looked down upon. They are in Latvia,
and the children are the ones who are really falling through the cracks."

With the loss of its major donor, the Center was in danger of closing its
doors just months ago. Orphan Outreach
put out a call for help, and kept things moving forward. 

With the help of donors and sponsors, the Day
Center is now open five days per week. On average, around 40 to 50 kids are attending
Day Center daily. There are five staff members and a bunch of volunteers, many of which have attended Day Center before.

Taylor explains that keeping it open is a priority for their ministry. The Center is run by a local Baptist Church. "Sergey,
the pastor there, has such a heart for children, for reaching out to
these children. That's exactly the ministry of Orphan Outreach. We are
coming alongside a local church with their ministry outreach in a community."

The Day Center offers Bible classes, creative workshops, art classes
and dance practices. Boys that are attending the center often can be seen
outside playing hockey or floor-ball, or competing in table-hockey.

This ministry makes a huge difference for kids. "We want this beacon of Christ to stay open
in this Naval Port area. We are going to support this program," says Taylor.

Keeping it open will mean help from more
people. "We have a sponsorship program for $36 a month. It sponsors a child
to go to this program every day. I probably have at least another 40 children
that need sponsors."

The end result of supporting a privately-funded program for kids in this
area means more kids are reached with
quality services and the hope of Christ. Taylor says when the two are combined, "They're able to open the doors wide. They'll tell
the kids all about Christ who loves them and a heavenly Father who wants to be
their loving Father, for these children who don't even understand what a ‘loving
Father' is."

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