Kostroma Kids Program
A Successful Orphanage "Graduate"
When you hear about the abuse and disappointments that these kids have endured, and when you read the statistics on how many of them will not succeed, you wonder if you can make a difference.
I met Igor during the 2006 summer program. He was 17 years old, and he was a lot like the other older boys at the orphanage—he drank, he smoked, and he caused a lot of trouble. But, I sensed there was something different about him.
He left the orphanage for technical school shortly after the 2006 program to study building construction. Unlike the other older boys, Igor hasn't fathered any kids, he doesn't spend his days drinking, and he didn't drop out of school. Instead, Igor finished his program, works in construction, and has even stopped smoking. He is now receiving additional training in the renovation of buildings to give him more opportunities for work. And somehow he has done this completely on his own.
We invited Igor to help chaperone the kids from the orphanage on a trip to the Black Sea to show we are very proud of him and to recognize his success in defying the odds. For 10 days, including a 36 hour train ride, Igor was like a big brother to the younger kids, he was a huge help to all of the adults, and he showed a maturity that amazed all of us. It was great to watch him enjoy himself while making the trip even more memorable for the younger kids.
But maybe the most touching moment of my many visits to Russia happened as we were preparing to leave. The kids and the orphanage staff were saying goodbye, and one of the younger boys was crying because we were leaving. One of the older boys turned to him and said, “You are 13! Aren’t you a bit old to be crying?” Igor walked over to the younger boy, put his arm around him, and with tears in his own eyes said, “You can cry as much as you want no matter how old you are.”
The young man that Igor has become is proof to me that what we are doing is making a difference in the lives of these kids both in the short term and in the long term. And the effect it has on one kid can carry over to the other kids as well.
Igor inspired us to start a new program in 2010. This Post-Orphanage Program supports kids as they leave the orphanage, when they are the most vulnerable. While most of the kids that leave the orphanage eventually fail, when we see kids that are defying the odds, we want to make sure to do all we can to help them. Click here to support the Post-Orphanage Program...