Loving on disabled children and young adults in a small town, state run orphanage.
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. Most have few life skills and a poor education, and they are left to fend for themselves.
But for handicapped orphans, those 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 institute) 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 children 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, having been placed in institutes they are not allowed to leave. The mentality of some who work in the homes 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?
Necessities are covered by a small stipend from the local government for families who keep their disabled children in their homes. Many homes are single moms, and if she is at home with her disabled child, she cannot work to put food on the table or provide a roof over her family's head. The government's stipend does not begin to cover these needs. In many ways, out of a pure lack of resources, it is easier for the family to allow the government to provide, which means giving up their parental rights and letting someone else take care of their children.
The government will step in and remove a disabled child from the home if there is alcohol abuse, drug, and/or physical abuse. These addictions often result in the child having epilepsy. This is one of the biggest problems in the orphanage.
For all the children, no matter if their disability is physical, mental, or both, between 18 and 19 years of age, they will be moved to an asylum referred to as a psycho-neurological “internat" for adults or to a facility comparable in nature to an old folk's homes.
This is the future for these young adults.
But we want to propose hope to those without.
Stephen's home, the first of other Christ centered family group homes, is two thirds of the way completed. March 19, 2016 we began building and with the help of Ukrainian companies and many volunteers from the states, Germany, and locals here we have a house with doors and windows and the beginnings of a therapy garden for 10 young disabled men. Through this coming year as we complete the home, we plan to bring in house parents and young men we've worked with over the past years as they've grown up in the orphanage system. Getting them out of the states 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.