Life of an orphan in Ukraine
Most kids in Ukraine have to leave the orphanage at 18 years of age. A normal, healthy orphan has a rather bleak future if they don't have the encouragement of others. They are released with few life skills, a poor education, and they are left to fend for themselves.
For those less fortunate, orphans labeled mentally disabled, their future is miserable. At 18 they are uprooted from the only home they have ever known, the orphanage, and sent to live in a psychological "internat" (government run institution) or an old-age home for the rest of their lives. They have no rights, no formal education and no understanding of life outside the orphanage. Desperate for freedom and longing to be loved, instead they are isolated from society.
Throughout their life in Ukraine, nothing for these disabled orphans comes easily. The world here is not handicap accessible. The stigma and cultural perspective remains in many people's minds that these kids are not kids and need to be shut away. That is what has been done, they have been placed in institutions they are not allowed to leave. The mentality of some who work in the places is that the children don't have feelings because they cannot respond or interact as a typical child. The children are not expected to live. That changes the whole outlook on care, feeding, nurturing, health, and every aspect of life.
But what about their hearts?
Many of the teens we have worked with have walked down this path. They are now isolated even further into small towns and villages. Kiryl, Sasha, Artyom and Sasha are four young men that are spread out now in three villages over three hours from one another. Sergei and Slava have been more fortunate having been placed in the same institution in Kairy. Victor and Yura are fortunate as well to be placed together, but in a completely different instuitution in Dnepriany. Sasha, separated from his twin brother, now lives over a day's transporation away from him in Zhitomir, and Stas, our newest aquantance, now friend of 5 years, are the 10 young men we desire to bring into Stephen's Home.
Why? What is Stephen's Home?
We want to propose hope to those without.
Stephen's home, the first of other Christ centered family group homes, is over two thirds of the way completed. March 19, 2016 we broke ground and started building with the help of Ukrainian companies and many volunteers from the States, Germany, and locals here. We have a house with doors and windows, bedrooms with special themes, house parents quarters and a therapy garden for these 10 young disabled men. Through this coming year we plan to complete this home by September 1, 2019 and bring in house parents. We hope to start the process of relocating these young men we've worked with over the past 10 years to Stephen's Home. All they've known as they've grown up in the orphanage system are the nannies as they have come and gone, but here, they will become a part of a family. Getting them out of the state system and moving forward to be as independant as possible is our goal.
Bringing them into community; living, loving and caring for them, as Christ loves through us.