International (MNN) — Orphans are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. They often grow up feeling hopeless, facing abuse and neglect, at risk of sex trafficking, and receiving no life training.
But what comes after life in the system? According to showhope.org, every year more than 23,000 children age out of foster care, leaving them without families of their own. Often times, life after the institution is worse than life in it.
“The statistics in Russia of kids when they leave the orphanage–which usually is at 15–were extremely high,” says Amy Norton of Orphan Outreach, a ministry dedicated to serving vulnerable children around the world. “They end up on the street…victims of drugs and prostitution and crime–and unfortunately an extremely high rate of suicide for these kids.
“They’re not prepared at all for living life independently. They don’t have that safety net. They don’t have that family to support them as they move into adulthood, nor do they have any of the skills to move into adulthood.”
That’s where Orphan Outreach comes in. This ministry has an orphan graduate program in multiple countries, including Russia, Latvia, Kenya, and soon Guatemala. The goal is to give orphans the love, support, and training they need to thrive independently.
“That involves everything from learning how to manage a budget, learning how to apply for a job, helping them with getting into a school, helping them find a place to live, and then of course the emotional and spiritual component of transition and how to manage their behavior, how to work in relationships, but all based on a Christian perspective,” Norton says.”
When looking at the problem as a whole, it may seem impossible to make a real difference. But in the program’s nine years of existence, it’s obvious it’s working. Norton tells the story of one girl, Katya.
“I met her in the orphanage when she was 9. She’s now 26 years old,” Norton says. “She had an incredibly difficult life, had always grown up in the orphanage, had no family to support her, and at one time had left the orphanage, was on the street. I literally thought that I would never see her again.
“She hit rock bottom. She asked for help, and that’s how we ended up getting her into our program. She trusted us and had known me for a long time. We started helping her first with how to find a place to live and where to live, and began helping her with her education…and got her some opportunities for school. We’re so proud of her. [She’s been] very successful. [She] has had a job, is a hard worker. She has gone to college, and she’s now living independently and is very mature and is really one of the leaders in our program.”
Interested in how you can help Orphan Outreach continue giving young adults a chance to thrive? Click here to learn more about the orphan graduate program and how you can help.