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ASSOCIATION OF MENNONITE BRETHREN CHURCHES OF UKRAINE

ASSOCIATION OF MENNONITE BRETHREN CHURCHES OF UKRAINE

Orphans in society: problems and solutions

2022-09-20 21:17

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Orphans in society: problems and solutions

Project by John Vince, Garry and Teresa Verhoog for adult orphans. Project’s life in 2022.

Problems of orphanhood

 

The problems of orphanhood in modern society affect many aspects of social life worldwide. Annually, the number of orphans in Ukraine increases by 10%. According to the data provided by the Ministry of Social Policy, as of September 30, 2021 in Ukraine there were 69,000 orphans and children whose parents were deprived of parental rights. On a global scale, 153 million orphans are registered for 2021. If there were a state inhabited only by orphans, it would take the 9th place in the world in terms of population after Bangladesh. It is difficult to imagine such a country. We often come across fights, theft, murders, the results of the work of criminal personalities from the "dark" areas in our country and ask ourselves: "Why is no one doing anything about it?"

Psychologists believe that the main reasons for the increase in the number of orphans are the decline in morality in the family and society; the spread of alcoholism and drug addiction; economic situation in the country associated with unemployment, corruption and the politics of individual parties. It is also influenced by such factors as the divorce of parents at an early age of the child, lack of education, military conflicts and natural disasters.

Being Christians, we understand the importance of family foundations and are responsible for our children, whom we accustom to kindness, friendliness and instruct for the future. Wikipedia says: a family is a small group of people connected by common life, mutual assistance, moral and legal responsibility. But a family is not only a common home, work for the benefit of children and an understanding of responsibility for the lives of all its members. It is a spiritual structure built upon love, respect, forgiveness, support and obedience. That is the way it should be. The Bible talks a lot about this in the Proverbs and Epistles.

" Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.." (Proverbs 22:6) According to this verse, a person will carry through his whole life what he learned at the beginning of the path. Now, if we digress from everyday affairs and visit an orphanage or boarding school, you can see what “rules” orphans have learned and why most of them end up in colonies.

Many countries are trying to deal with the problem of the number of such children. They build boarding houses, organize adoption or guardianship programs in families and family-type orphanages. In addition, they popularize and inspire parents to help children interact with society. But what about those children who are 18 years old and the doors of the boarding school are closed for them? They don't have any future. They have no vision of how to build this future among people who, at one time, turned their backs on them.

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An attempt to change the fate of orphans

In 2008, John Vince, a missionary from Canada, moved to Ukraine. He opened new churches, organized conferences, and visited orphanages and orphanages. John easily found a common language with orphans, was interested in their plans for the future, studied the Bible with them. At the same time, he talked with educators who repeatedly prophesied a "doubtful" future for their graduates. These words eventually served as an impetus for creating of a project for adult orphans.

Over the next two years, John Vince, along with Garry and Teresa Werb, established a farm in the Mennonite village of Nikolai-Pole. The basis of this farm was a charitable project aimed at working with orphans. It was designed for the long term. Each orphan was provided with free housing, well-paid job and food at the expense of the farm for two years. During this time, the ministers planned to change the worldview of the guys, to reveal God to them and help them find Hope at the initial stage. After this period, they had to withdraw from the project to make room for new members.

John went to boarding schools for graduates, talked with educators and offered to take part in the project to those who really wanted to change their lives. The missionaries were happy to give the guys a chance - the opportunity to develop and invest in their future.

Garry took responsibility for the practical and technical parts of the project. He did farming and paperwork. In his turn, John Vince took upon himself the responsibility of teaching orphans, instructing them working with their souls, spiritually and morally. He was a man with a great heart. He reacted wisely to conflict and problem situations. He never “taught them how to live”, but tried and conquered them with wisdom and patience.

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Project life in 2022

This summer we managed to communicate with the official director of the farm. Oleg Belogub told us about the current status of the project, and also shared several successful stories of orphans whose lives have changed thanks to the project.

 

- Oleg, how long have you been in charge of the project?

- I came to Ukraine in the summer of 2021. During the first 2 months I did not understand what I was here for. Everything seemed to work just fine without me: the farm had a director, they worked with orphans, things were going well in the church. But then I got a revelation. I realized that God does not do anything aimlessly, and the time of inactivity was the preparation for the next stage of my life. The pastor of the local church fell ill and, due to health reasons, could no longer lead the church services. He was replaced by ministers from Zaporozhye. Sometimes I preached, too. This helped keep the church afloat. But in the winter, the pastor called and said, “We won't have any more meetings. There are few people in the church, and heating such a large room is expensive.” But what is a village without a church? I saw an opportunity to work in the church and began to serve as a pastor. Later, because of the war, Gary and Teresa could not come to Ukraine and all the paperwork of the farm came on me. Many farm workers left the village so, I had to look for new ones, because you can’t handle keeping track of 300 cows on 300 hectares alone. The same goes for orphans. They were left without a mentor, and Garry asked me to look after them.

- How are the things with orphans?

- Well, it’s hard to say anything specific. Now we have 7 guys and 5 girls working in the project, who agreed to work with us after finishing the boarding school. They live in houses provided by the project. We also pay the bills for them, and have organized a canteen where they can eat for free. We also pay them a decent salary. But, despite this, some guys continue to lead an immoral life, use all the opportunities as a tribute and live with the ideas of hedonism.

- What kinds of problems do they have?

- Alcohol is the root of all the evil that happens to them. Oftentimes they are late or do not come to work at all because of a hangover, and then they write threatening SMS and come for a salary, brandishing a knife. What do I have pay them for? There were also cases of thefts and bribery. They would sell hundreds of liters of ​​milk "on the side". Some people would come at night, load the milk and go. And the money for the milk was nowhere to be found, of course. The orphans also took loans for expensive phones and even scooters without paying them back. They bribed each other for money and food so as not to go to work. So it happened that some of them would sweat 24/7, while others would only come to get their salary. When I was not here yet, one of the orphans was severely injured in a fight. Garry took care of him: found a hospital, paid for the treatment. The guy was in intensive care for a long time, but eventually passed away. Neither the core of the conflict nor the perpetrators were found.

There were also guys who agreed to work, and a week later they would say: “I’m done, I don't like your project. I'm leaving". I would say: „Fine, we do not uproot anyone here”. But grinders, perforators and other tools disappeared along with the workers. Gary's money was stolen, too. They climbed in the window and carried away 300 thousand dollars. Not too shabby, is it?

- What did you do to change the situation?

- As for the work, I’ve set the rules. For an ordinary person, they will not even seem difficult: to go to work on time, not to drink during working hours and before shifts, and to fulfill work duties. If they violate these rules three times, continue to behave like bandits, cross boundaries, do not conform to any morality and are bad examples for others, they leave the project. Over the past 4 months, I have already had to fire three guys.

To reduce the number of thefts, I installed cameras on the farm, hired security guards. I often come at night and monitor the progress of the work. If someone did not come to the shift or is asleep, or forced another to work in his shift, then this workday does not count for him.

When I took this position, I tried to hold Bible study meetings with them twice a week. But it was no use. Within an hour of the meeting, they managed to fight twice. My wife and I prayed for them for a long time and asked God for wisdom. In the end, things started to come to normal. My wife has organized a canteen with the girls and helps them choose menus, make purchases, teaches them how to cook and set the table. To many, this may seem strange. But in the orphanage, they are not taught this. They didn't even know how to make tea or chop vegetables. Now the girls are starting to change for the better.

I work with the guys. When that trio left, they became more obedient and easy-going. During my work, I try to talk to them about their perception of life in general, in order to learn their reasons for such behavior and, as a result, guide them in the right direction. I'm not trying to force them to change, it's pointless. They must want it themselves. So far, I don't know how to do it. But there are already positive moments.

-What is holding them from changing?

They grew up in an environment that imposed labels of "cruelty", "alienation", "resentment" on them, and they live with these labels. They are used to living by cunningness. They don't believe in honest, decent relationships. For them, there is no such thing as friendship or respect. They are used to reducing everything to injustice and therefore react to everything with anger and perceive any manifestation of care as a tribute. You could even say that these labels are what made them such as they are. So, it is so difficult for them to conform to the worldview we offer.

- In your opinion, what can help them to destroy these labels?

- I think it would be good to separate them. In the orphanage they were together, which means that after moving here, nothing much has changed for them. They continue to live in the same context, interact with each other using the same methods, obey those to whom they used to obey. I noticed that they often quarrel because of problems that arose back in the orphanage. They continue to “ferment” in the same environment, so they cannot change. A person must have a desire to change. And how is one to get it when the past environment continues to adversely affect them?

- What does the project need?

A good mentor for orphans. After John's death, the project stalled. Garry and Teresa did great business on the farm, but due to frequent trips abroad, they did not have time to pay attention to the orphans. There was no control, regime and necessary interaction with the orphans. They felt free not to follow the initial plan. Instead of two years, some have been living here for six. Against the backdrop of the project, 3 families were formed, which was not taken into account in the original plan.

Now I'm trying to change the situation, to return the project to the original plan, so that it continues to change the lives of orphans who really need it. But it will be difficult for me to manage the business of the farm and interact with the orphans at the right level. We need someone who would take responsibility for working with orphans, like John.

- Were there positive cases when an orphan took a chance and changed his life?

Yes. But I didn't meet those guys. This is the result of John's work. One of the orphans went to Canada, learned English, got an education and now works on Garry's farm. I don’t know how his life has turned out now, but he managed to take advantage of the chance that we provided.

There were two other girls. One was kind of revolutionary... She often drank, but then went to Kyiv to a rehabilitation center. It was there that she changed, got married. Just a few months ago she gave birth to a girl. She often posts pictures on Facebook. They seem like a very good family.

The second remained in Zaporozhye and goes to the local church. She took up a sport carrier. Last year she received the Master of Sports of Ukraine in weightlifting. And, more recently, she married a Christian.

Now one of the girls, Lilya, goes to our church and works very hard at the farm. I have the fewest comments on her. I suppose everything will turn out well in her life.

- What are some prayer needs?

- As for the farm, it is difficult to sell wheat. Wheat price is low. If we sell it now, we will not recoup all that we have spent on it. We have to wait for the new year, and maybe something will be decided. We are not in a hurry, but we hope on God’s blessings.

We also pray for the orphans. For God to find a person who will take their re-education into their own hands. Sometimes it is very difficult to forgive, it is difficult to understand and be kind to them. Pray for discipline and order.

 

* It became known that on August 13, two more girls joined the project. They are from the boarding school from the village of. Osipenko (near Berdyansk)

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War and orphans

 

According to the National Social Service of Ukraine, as of July 1, 2022, 1,735 children were left without parental care due to the war. These are the children who, in fact, may not yet have lost their parents de jure. For example, 121 children were left in a maternity hospital or other health care facility. 132 children were taken away from their parents because they shied away from parental responsibilities. In addition to these categories, temporary statuses of an orphan child or a child deprived of parental care also appeared: if there is no certificate of death of the parents, then the child is given the status of an orphan, but after the end of the war, this status must be confirmed or refuted if the parents are found. Now there are 87 such children. 54 of them have already officially become orphans as a result of the death of both parents.

There is also a category of children whose parents were deprived of parental care, because they remained in the occupied territories or where hostilities are taking place, and they cannot fulfill their duties. There are 48 such children.

According to various sources, from 200 thousand children to half a million were deported or forcibly taken out of Ukraine. The adviser - the commissioner of the President of Ukraine for children's rights Daria Gerasimchuk calls the number of at least 234 thousand children. According to her, 2,751 children have been verified.
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What can we do?


The horrific statistics and the orphans' problems should evoke an appropriate reaction. Christians should not be left behind. We must not forget that once all people were orphans, but the Lord called us his children. He gave us the forgiveness of sins, freed us from the law, redeemed us with the blood of the cross and said, “Go and teach…” It’s difficult to share the gospel with people, and it is even more difficult to do so with those who do not yet now what love is – such are orphans who don’t have any hope and are confident that no one needs them.

The Lord gave us various gifts for service and called us to the right places. Someone is to feed the homeless, someone is to serve in the camps, someone is to sing or preach, someone is to earn money and financially support projects, but there are so few ministers who are ready to work with orphans. Few dare to serve orphans, and even fewer devote their lives to working with them.

John Vince started a big and very important ministry. He said, "Yes!" and the project was born. He said: “I will not give up”, and the orphan’s lives changed. Now, against the backdrop of the war, many orphaned children will end up in orphanages and boarding schools. What will happen to them there, will they be able to rise afterwards?

At this stage, Christians are serving on four fronts: in churches; in rehabilitation centers; feed the homeless and visit lonely people; help refugees and distribute Christian literature. But Ukraine needs ministers who are ready to work with the hearts of adult orphans, as well as ministers who can serve in orphanages. Thus, we will bring light to the fifth front of service, which is still very poorly developed.

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