After decades of communism the past 19 years of “democracy” and “free market economy” has had minimal impact on the more than 100,000 children living in state orphanages in Ukraine. Orphaned by poverty, death and abandonment, these children are often denied the opportunity to learn even the most basic life skills.
State institutions are overcrowded and frequently have to abandon programs that foster healthy lifestyles or job-skills training in order to provide the children food, minimal shelter and an abbreviated version of public education.
However, the real tragedy surrounding these children is what happens when they are forced to leave the orphanages. At the age of sixteen, children “age out” or graduate from the orphanages. They have no place to go, no place to live, no way to support themselves and no adult to offer them protection and guidance.
There are an estimated 130,000 homeless children in Ukraine. They run in packs in the cities, living on the streets, sleeping in storm drains, sewers and abandoned buildings. Sniffing glue is a street child’s answer to hunger, loneliness, and cold.
The statistics are appalling: 60% of the girls are forced into prostitution, 70% of the boys turn to crime, alcohol and drugs. Every 6th girl and every 20th boy has been sexually violated. One out of 12 has received money for a sexual relationship. Eight out of 10 are drug abusers. Practically all street kids have STDs and many are HIV positive.
Within 2 years 15% of these children will decide life is not worth living and commit suicide. Every year more than 20,000 children are forced out of the orphanages into a cruel and harsh existence. Only about 10% will attain some type of normal adult life. For the majority, their lives are filled with unimaginable suffering and misery.
Bridge to Life homes are our solution. These are homes where disadvantaged children live in a family setting and are able to continue their education and life skill training. MANNA Worldwide operates two such homes, one in Russia and one in Ukraine. The staggering number of these castaway children demands we do more and that is why we are planning to open a second, larger home in Kiev.
MANNA Worldwide is committed to helping these young people develop educationally, emotionally spiritually, and socially. This is a safe environment for young people where they can continue their education, learn a positive family dynamic, and develop confidence in themselves and their future. It is a home setting with house parents who provide love, guidance and encouragement, as well as practical training for everyday living. Bridge to Life homes provide children facing a desperate future with hope for a better tomorrow.
A Kiev based organization has donated several thousand square feet of building to MANNA for us to house this ministry. The building is called “Smile House”. It is about 65% finished and is already appraised at close to one million dollars. Our challenge is to bring the facility to “occupancy ready” status within the next 12 months.
To complete the construction of Smile House we estimate the cost at $350,000. This will provide housing for up to 50 children, living