The alliance Ukraine without Orphans and Russia without Orphans publicized an appeal to Slavic Churches across the world to conduct a day of prayer for orphans in Ukraine and Russia on 6 November, 2011. Ukraine is a large European country with a complex history and strong Christian traditions. Seventy years of Soviet occupation and hardships while creating an independent country left their mark on the smallest and most vulnerable members of society—children who are deprived of parental supervision.
In Ukraine and Russia there are over 220,000 orphaned children in the national adoption database. 30,000 Ukrainian children live in orphanages; the majority of them are older or have special needs. Another 250,000 children are victims of abuse or exploitation and are at risk of ending up on the streets or in orphanages.
According to statistics from Komsomol’s’ka Pravda, today nearly 136,000 children in Ukraine are being raised in disadvantaged families. Every 10th child in Ukraine is homeless. Every other homeless child regularly uses alcohol or illicit drugs. Many homeless children earn money by stealing, robbing or prostituting themselves. A UNICEF study shows that 10% of homeless children are illiterate and others are under-educated. Independent research shows that up to 95% of orphans in Ukraine actually have living parents.
Because of the political and economic instability in the country, social problems are left for non-governmental structures to deal with. There are many charitable organizations, Christian Groups, and Community organizations in Ukraine which provide comprehensive assistance to children who have been deprived of parental guidance. They support educational programs in schools and HEIs, provide medical treatment, take children on vacation, and give other assistance as needed in the form of clothing, footwear, groceries.
In 2011 the state allocated 283,348.60 UAH to assist foster families and family style orphanages, this is 3% more than in 2010 (275,086.20 UAH). For comparison, Caritas Ukraine spends 305-400,000 Euro (12-15 times more) on assisting the homeless, disadvantaged, orphaned, disabled, and children of labour migrants.
“Each child has the right to be protected, to realize their potential, and to be raised in a loving family. There are 30,000 Christian churches and hundreds of organizations which help disadvantaged children across the country. The time has come for Christians to take responsibility and unite their efforts to help every single orphan. Ukraine has the ability to make radical changes on a national level in order to improve the lives of disadvantaged children,” say event organizers in their appeal.
The Day of Prayer for Orphans is supported by over 1000 churches of different denominations in Ukraine and Russia. On this day they prayed, held special services and activities for children and young people, held celebrations and concerts dedicated to orphaned children. Additionally, on 15 November, a conference will be held in Kyiv for organizations that are interested in implementing a mentoring program.
Caritas Ukraine invites everyone to join in the Day of Prayer. Community organizations, society, and government authorities need clear and coordinated action to prevent child abandonment in Ukraine. Each of us has the power to change this situation, to give children the gift of warmth, shelter, and hope!