Turning 18 is an exciting milestone for many teenagers. It marks the transition from a teenager to a legal adult: Graduating high school. Leaving behind old friendships. Negotiating relationships with current lovers. Welcoming with a hopeful innocence whatever the future may bring -- New friendships, new adventures… and freedom.
But for many unfortunate orphans, turning 18 hurls them over a cliff and into a life-or-death struggle. Imagine turning 18, then suddenly becoming homeless, losing all your friends and family, and not having anywhere to go or knowing what to do next. Then imagine… not being a “normal” child.
That what it’s like to turn 18 for an orphan with special needs at an orphanage like Kalinovka orphanage in Ukraine. The old, Soviet-era orphanage system doesn’t help orphans receive a good education or prepare them for life after they leave the orphanage. Instead, it’s like a warehouse for children.
When they turn 18, the only world they know disappears, they are ill-equipped to join society, and they have no home to go back to if things don’t work out. As a result, many of them become criminals or prostitutes, lead an asocial way of life, commit suicide or get pregnant young with no means to raise a family (leading to more orphans). The situation is more dire for a special needs child with physical or mental challenges.
The system cannot adapt quickly enough, so big efforts from the NGOs and ordinary people are needed to change the situation. One of the people leading this change is Albert Pavlov at the Happy Child Foundation.
On the 1st of December 2011, they finally opened the doors of “Happy Home”. The main goal of the “Happy Home” is to provide children ages 7-17 with a family-like environment, a complete social adaptation program, as well as intellectual and physical development. The project is revolutionary, not only for Ukraine, but for Eastern Europe as a whole.
Dec 2011 was a turning point for the lives of nine boys with special needs from the Chernigiv Children’s Home. They are now happy residents of the “Happy Home” social adaptation group.
Since joining Happy Home, they are getting more and more independent in their daily routine: they already can make their own beds, wash themselves, brush their teeth and even help to clean the table after lunch. Every day, the children have reading classes with their teacher and a computer course where they learn to type. They are also learning to count.
In their leisure time the boys enjoy drawing pictures and making various interesting handicrafts with beads. In the evening they play draughts, and together with their nannies they read fairy tales aloud. Thanks to a local IT company, the boys play happily some developmental computer games.
But the most important thing is that the children are learning to be good friends by sharing books and toys with each other. They are learning to help each other and be a real family. Now these children are carefully supervised by a nanny and a teacher who work in two shifts.
“Happy Home” resembles the cozy atmosphere of a big family where its little members enjoy comfortable and warm bedrooms and play rooms, a neat kitchen and a bathroom and even a functional classroom.
But… they have a problem that they need urgent help with: They do not have enough caregivers to care for these special needs children.
The Kalinovka orphanage is situated in the far rural part of the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine, 25 miles from the nearest town. One nurse or caregiver there currently serves 9-12 children, and it’s not enough for the care and development of every child.
Some of the children also have physical disabilities that prevent them from moving about on their own, or mental challenges that limit their ability to care for themselves. The caregivers are the secret angels and unsung heroes, who make many sacrifices to care for the children. The children simply could not survive without them.
The nurses and caregivers also have to do cleaning work and help feed the children, and because there are too few of them, they sometimes do not have time to give the children the attention they need, or even take them outside the building. Many of the staff also do not have special skills needed to care for special needs children.
Because of this urgent problem, Maya’s Hope will be working with Albert Pavlov of Happy Child Foundation to help fund an additional caregiver for the children at Kailnovka. They will be providing more updates and details via Facebook (http://facebook.com/
Maya Rowencak: “Individually, we are one drop. But together, we are an ocean. Every little bit will help us get closer to helping the children find a new caregiver and have a better future."
To help the orphan children at Kalinovka get an additional caregiver, please email Maya Rowencak at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more details, visit:
Maya's Hope Foundation:
Happy Child Foundation:
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Maya's Hope is a volunteer-run non-profit that helps impoverished children get proper nutrition, basic medical care and education.
Maya Rowencak founded Maya's Hope after the unexpected loss of her mom in 2007. This ignited her mission to reach out to children who may have never experienced the unconditional love that can only come from a parent.