Charity Center is a privately operated Christian orphanage in Ukraine that was started 15 years ago. It typically provides refuge from between 25-35 children at any given time. The center is privately run on donations. The government of Ukraine provided the building, which was formerly a preschool in the 1950‘s, to start the center. Although there are estimated to be 100,000 orphans currently in Ukrainian orphanages and another 100,000 on the street, you are not considered a “true orphan” until both parents rights have been severed. In the meanwhile, which could be years, the government does not provide the child a stipend while living in the orphanage. At any given time, only half of the children at Charity Center are considered “true orphans”. Because Charity Center is private they must pay salaries for all employees, food for residents, clothing, school fees, and other necessities. Currently, gas and electric is covered by a stipend from the Ukrainian government. However, with the enactment of a new minimum wage increase the salary burden alone is quite large. Depending on the rate of exchange salaries can cost between $1,800 - $2,000 per month. Additionally, the Ukrainian government has recently enacted a new law which will require medical coverage for employees.
Charity Center is unique in that donations are used to run the center. All the children’s stipends are put in the bank for the child. If the child decides to leave the center and go to trade school they are given all their monies received from the government. Also, they can keep their money in their bank account and when they finish trade school the director will help them secure an apartment in the child's name. Once an apartment is secured the director will help coordinate workers from an alcohol rehab center to make all necessary repairs, purchase appliances, and furniture. Basically, if they can adapt and learn how to function in a healthy, family like setting they will be able to transition into their own home which is completely owned by the young adult.
All but one staff member has been at the center since its inception. The employees see their work as a calling rather than a job. The directors husband is a pastor of a local church which is within walking distance from the center. He is there daily and serves as a father figure, spiritual guide, and positive role model for the children. Most kids call the director “Mom”. The children eat 4 meals a day - morning, mid-day, late afternoon, and a light meal later in the evening. The children can also go in the kitchen anytime to get a snack, although that’s usually not necessary. It is run like a home, complete with a chore chart. Workers help the kids who are falling behind in school with extra work in the evening. Kids get to keep their own clothes in their own drawers. They do have a big joint closet, but their clothes are their own. They pray before meals and at bedtime. Even when kids age out or leave early on their own they often come back to the center for counseling and support.
At times when children have been sent back to their parent for a second chance the center has been known to help. One home was so cold director bought the mother a new boiler, new windows, and new beds and bedding for the children. The director felt she would not be serving God if she had sent the children back to a home in that condition. Their motto is “how do I answer to my God when I have to send a child out on the street at 16 years old.” Once a child enters the doors of charity center the staff never walk away from that child.
What happens when a typical Ukrainian child ages out of an orphanage?
100,000 orphans live in Ukraine’s 450 orphanages
100,000 more children are on the streets because the orphanages are full
10% of orphans commit suicide after leaving the orphanage before their 18th birthday
60% of the girls end up in prostitution
70% of the boys end up in crime
Only 27% are able to find work
*Statistics taken from “Ukraine Orphan Outreach”