Meet Our Friends!

The girls get their game on.

The girls get their game on.

We would like to introduce you to some of our friends. Full of energy, imagination, and emotion, these kids are between three and six years old. When you hang out with them there is always drama. With the boys it’s mostly spider-drama, sticks-as-weapons drama, and monkey bars drama. With the girls, you’ve got hat drama, pay-attention-to-me drama, and that-is-my-candy drama. Discovery, new experiences, learning to trust, this all comes into play when we play. Fun! When we come to visit, we usually get mobbed, it’s part of the deal. After swinging multiple kiddies multiple times till way past dizzy, there still might be four or five kids literally hanging on you. And that’s all good, cause we know they need that kind of contact with people. They don’t get enough.

A happy birthday indeed!

Happy birthday indeed!

And you know what else? These kids are scarred. Some days a person wonders, “Does my time spent here make a difference?” “Can my little bit of love help them live? Not just survive, but truly live?” All these little pairs of eyes have seen really bad stuff. Stuff we never saw. Sometimes one of the children just needs a quiet hug. Those still moments are filled with a silent prayer that this child will find peace with our Creator. Honestly? I follow that prayer with another; that I will find peace with my Creator.

A lovely someones' daughter

A lovely someones’ daughter

Some days the kid who really needs some love and understanding wants none of it. In early May on a day we stayed indoors, I was spinning kids around in the air. I don’t recall exactly what Katya did, but I told her “No, you need to stop.” She was insistent, and told me she wouldn’t. Then, she got offended, and wouldn’t talk with me. For 2 months. She is 5. Yesterday she jumped in my arms and gave me a forgiving hug. I carried her around the playground on my shoulders. I felt like crying. It was sooooo nice to have the forgiveness of that little girl; it was so sad that a five-year old girl shut me out for two months. Ouch.

One day may all her un-cried tears be eternally expunged, may she shine brighter than a star. So be it.

We are part of a great group of volunteers who visit one of the orphanages in Ulan-Ude.  Not only do we take the kids out to help them blow off steam, we host birthday parties for them, we pray for them, sometimes we put on plays for them, sometimes we teach them things, we help with particular concerns like collecting money for kids who need special medical attention, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. (Yule Brennar, The King and I.)

The sunny disposition of the Sundance kid.

A sunny disposition on the Sundance kid.

All of this is well and good. And yet, if these children don’t find families, their future is dark. With that in mind, together with the director of one of our local orphanages we will host a meeting where interested Russian families can come to learn about adoption. The director will explain the realities of adopting a child, what to expect, where to go, and help them consider if adoption is an option. Historically adoption has been rare among Russian families. But that is changing. Healthy Russian families adopting Russian orphans. That sounds like a fabulous thing to us!

Pretty in pink.

Pretty in pink.

Orphans in Russia: The Facts

Number of children declared to be without families in 2012: 74,724*

Number of children in Foster care in 2012: 516,592*

Number of children in Orphanages: 104,028*

Number of children in boarding schools: 18,323*

61,400 children were either adopted or placed in foster care in 2012*

Of those,

6,500 were adopted by Russian families⁁

2,600 were adopted by foreign families⁁

52,500 placed in foster care of some sort⁁

Put another way, in 2011 there were 25 (25.19) orphans for every thousand children in Russia.‡

Repeat Orphans

A particularly concerning trend is repeat orphans. That is children who have been returned to the orphanage after being adopted, or placed in foster homes. Finding up to date information on this is difficult, here is what I could find:

In 2007, 6,100 children were returned by Russian families.†

In 2009 8,400 children were returned by Russian families, 1 by foreign families†

In 2011 6,300†

If these numbers hold then it is safe to say that most of the children adopted by Russian families end up as repeat orphans. Yikes.

Our goal is to see that change!

*Facts taken from the site of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. (usynovite.ru/statistics/2012/1/ and usynovite.ru/statistics/2012/2/)

⁁ Facts taken from the Russian wikipedia site here: ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Усыновление#cite_note-st2009-49 (They site the Ministry of Education and Science for their information.)

‡Taken from a report on the “State of the Solution to the problem of Orphanhood” 2011 found at: donorsforum.ru/materials/analitika-po-sirotstvu-v-rossii/

†From an article dated 25 Jan 2013 entitled “Federation Council Decides Who Will be Responsible for Control of Foster Families” by Alyona Sivkova, Izvestia (izestia.ru/news/543654)

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Diana of the Orphans

We were able to get back to the orphanage where we put on the Christmas puppet show pageant. It has been under quarantine for flu, and then chickenpox since early January. The kids were so excited to see us, and they clambered about me insisting on being spun in the air multiple times. I spun until I nearly fell several times. You could see that all the kids had been sick for some time. They were pale, skinny and still had the healing red bumps of chicken pox. Their gleeful expressions as they spun were priceless. Most of them I gave a good and thorough spin. One little girl struck a ballet pose, and I was transfixed at the beauty of this four-year old girl gracefully spinning through the air. I then picked up Diana. She is such a sweetie, she likes to sit in your lap and take your arms and put them around her. Man she needs some love. When I picked her up, I was shocked at her skinny wrists and was careful not to break her as I spun her around. A number of these children are on the light end of the special needs spectrum, including Diana. They have some physical issues, I am not sure what they are, but they walk stiffly and lack the normal strength of children.

Lovely Diana.

Lovely Diana.

There are many special needs kids in Russia who need to be adopted. Now that citizens of the United States are unable to adopt, I ask for people from other nations to step forward and adopt them. Adoption of special needs kids in Russia is very rare. Special needs kids are rarely seen, they are still kept behind closed doors. If you are considering adopting, please consider Russia.

Storm Petrel Wrestling

The Storm Petrel Boys

We are proud to announce that our dear friend Sasha has opened a wrestling school for young men, including orphans from our city here in Irkutsk. Sasha is a former champion of Russia in Greco-Roman wrestling. He has a real heart for children, not just for their physical development, but for character and spiritual development as well. He has dreamed of opening up a wrestling school to influence young orphans, show them their value and push them to avoid the pitfall most orphans succumb to. This is truly a unique program; most orphans here never have an opportunity to participate in sports or learn from a qualified coach. There is a gaping need in Russia for people who will mentor orphans. Without some love, instruction and discipline, our orphans are destined for crime, drugs or prostitution. Ninety percent of orphans in Russia fall directly into crime upon leaving orphanages.

Coach Sasha

Several years ago, Sasha had an opportunity to coach at a local orphanage. Within the year he had several wrestlers place in local tournaments. We look for similar successes from his new school he has christened “Storm Petrel”, which literally means “announcer of the storm” in Russian, the idea being that this school will prepare kids for the storms of life. Congratulations, Sasha!  We look forward to partnering with you in the development of these young men. There will be periodic updates on Sasha and the progress of his kids here on our blog.