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Children at Risk

At risk of being forgotten. In Russia and Ukraine, and all parts of this earth, thousands of kids are living on the streets, in very poor  family conditions, run-down orphanages and abandoned as babies in children's hospitals.

 It began in 1991 when the former Soviet Union disbanded. Unemployment escalated, alcohol use increased and poverty overpowered families.  Parents lost hope and babies were then, and continue to be, abandoned, at hospitals because the parents  can no longer take care of them.  


Here is how Alla Dobrynina (former Director of Dr. Haaz in Kherson) put it:


When in 1999 we started our ministry, the situation in our country and in our city was at the top of its economic crisis. Many factories and plants didn't function in our city. At that time I worked as a nurse and since 1993 I was receiving my wages not in money but in flour, old canned food and so on that was stocked in shops. Ever since the fall of the USSR the problem with the street kids started to grow. Because of the unemployment many people would involve themselves to some trading business, others would go abroad, those who were more active would open clubs, cafes and personal businesses, and some would just get always drunk. The level of theft and robbery went up. People would loose their homes. Because of the poverty people wanted to change their homes to smaller and less expensive ones.  The people would become poorer and poorer, drunk parents would always fight, there was nothing to eat.  But at the same time there were people who quickly were becoming richer and richer.  Drunk parents would lose their custody, the children were taken to orphanages where they would escape from. 

I've often asked myself a question why would they escape from orphanages? To my mind, if a child gets to an orphanage in the early age (from 1 to 7), they get accustomed and stay there. But if a teenager is sent to an orphanage, it's difficult for them. 

There were children in the sewers who escaped from orphanages plus those whose parents are extremely poor, or drunkards, or where family relations are destroyed. At that time I heard the statistics about such poor children in our region (there were about 5,000) who would wander in flocks as hungry dogs and would do lots of evil.  But it's 2006 now and those children have grown. As almost all of them had criminal childhood and youth, by law they could be put to prisons since they are 18. Now many of these children are in prisons, some of them have yet returned to orphanages, some died because of alcohol, some are still bums but they are grownup bums now.

The situation in the country was changing little by little. As soon as the borders were open many Christian missions started helping the orphanages and less children started to escape. Different Christian ministries as ours were doing everything they could to help such children. The police would make raids to catch the children and send them back to orphanages.  

As for the situation with the street kids now, in my opinion, there not as many.  The police are  trying to catch them. But there are a lot of poor children left. 

Editor's Note: The climate in Ukraine is evolving yet still a major problem.  In other parts of Ukraine and especially in Russia, there are still kids living with poor families, some sleep or live on the streets, thousands are in poor orphanages.  This is where Shepherd's Purse comes in.  We are trying to help, in any way we can.


Anastasyia, (Nastya) is now in her early 20's.  When she was four-years old she saw her mom's boyfriend hit her in the head with a hammer.  It was then that she escaped the alcoholism and abuse in her home.  At age six some saw her standing on a corner with a bottle of Vodka in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  Once a staff saw her yelling to drivers, "You want Nastya?"  


She has had one year of school her whole life.  Yet, she is very bright.  .  It is difficult to convince her to enter a place like a foster family because of her distrust for adults and the freedom she has grown up with on the streets.  Two years ago she was hit by a car and left unconscious with a broken pelvis.  In December of 2006 she was again hit by a car when walking on a dark road with several friends.  One friend was killed.  Nastya suffered a concussion, broken arm and re-broken pelvis.  Before she could heal she escaped back to the streets and tore the cast off her arm.  We have not heard from her for a while.  Please pray.

Editor's Note: We love Nastya very much and spend time with her every trip.  We are praying that she will find her way home, and also become a worker who will help many other street children in her life


Igor  says, "My mom is Ira.  She has no job.  We live in an apartment with my aunt, grandfather, mom's boyfriend, aunt,  another  uncle, mom of course, and two brothers. Sometimes there is no heat or cold water.  I lived in the sewers now for five months."

"Five or six of my friends and I sleep on wood pallets.  We try to find blankets.  There is no light, just a candle."

Editor's Note: We met Igor at the Dr. Haaz day center run by Alla in Kherson, Ukraine.


"My name is Slava.  I was born in 1991. My mom is now in prison for child neglect.  I tried to live with my dad a couple of years ago but it was bad.  He drank and was mean to me."

Editor's Note: We first met Slava as he was climbing up out of a sewer with some other kids.  This is their home.  He was born after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and attended school for only one year when he was fourteen.  Him mom was arrested for child neglect and sent to prison.  The ironic thing is that he is now living on the streets sleeping in sewers.  He has done this since he was ten-years old.  He told us it is nice and warm in the winter.  He has no legal papers and his only relative; a grandmother sold her apartment and moved somewhere far away.

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