Covid & orphan vulnerability
Ukraine’s COVID-19 infections are spiking, setting case records every week. It’s starting to hit close to home, too, with at least one family member of our staff now in recovery. We’re concerned about our whole community, but when a crisis occurs, the ones already at the bottom are hit hardest. We wanted to share with you how the pandemic is affecting vulnerable orphan kids and youth.
Young orphans sent back to families
In the Zhytomyr region, about 3,000 kids lived in orphanages. But only 300 had official “orphan status,” meaning their parents were deceased or had lost custody. When the pandemic began, the other 2700 were sent home. They’ve most often been removed from their families because of abuse or neglect, and now they’re back. This is a real crisis. As Director Andrey put it, “Kids are thrown away again.”
Even though our primary focus is older orphans, we couldn’t just do nothing. So we partnered with social services and procured a list of ten of these families, then organized a group of local church members to visit. We’ve already heard about some positive outcomes from this outreach, which we’ll share later in the fall. But our friends can only reach a few kids. School is starting soon, and then the cold winter months will arrive. God loves these children, and we ask you to pray with us for their protection and for miraculous help.
Trade school students sent home, too
Trade schools also closed for quarantine. Just like the younger kids, many teenage orphans at trade schools were sent home to relatives who’d neglected or abused them in childhood. We don’t know yet what will happen with classes this fall; for now we’re trying to stay in touch by phone and through social media. Last Bell is often an orphan teenager’s only source of help in a crisis.
About 40 orphan youth are still in Zhytomyr, living either in social dorms (not associated with schools) or in apartments, some managed by Christian organizations like Hope for Orphans. So we’re taking the opportunity to work more deeply with these young men and women.
Many businesses have closed, of course. Rent and groceries aren’t getting cheaper, but work is even harder to come by. One of our youth, Slavik, had a good job repairing phones, then repairing laptops. But now he’s hearing, “We’ll call you back when there’s work.” That’s the story everywhere.
Please pray for our young people in the villages and in the city. And pray for our staff as they mentor those near and far, and offer the practical help that keeps our youth out of deep poverty.