Orphans and the Olympics - Part II

By: Marnie Wilson

If you missed Orphans and the Olympics - Part I, please read here.

Continuing down the path of our typical Russian orphan who has been forced to leave an orphanage and go into technical school, let’s assume you are now around age 17 or 18. You’ve applied to continue in technical school for more training, but have been denied as the demand is high and the slots are limited.

You must now get two jobs just to make US$300-400 per month to live on, even though your living expenses are likely to be US$500-600 a month. While you qualify for government issued housing you may wait up to 7 years to be issued housing, though there is no guarantee you will actually ever receive housing. You may find yourself homeless, like countless other Russian orphans. Whether you find friends to live with or are issued housing, your living quarters will likely be sub-standard with broken windows or lack of water and heat. Or, you may be given housing in a distant village that has no jobs and be forced into a difficult commute over long distances for work. You will not be provided any furnishings so you must find those yourself on an income that already does not meet your shelter, food and clothing costs.

You may not like the work that you do, or be particularly gifted in that area, but there is little to no opportunity to change your line of work or afford advanced education to do something else. Studies have shown that only a third of orphanage graduates find employment, and that 20% of those lose their jobs within the first year. Among the reasons employers give for avoiding hiring orphans are lack of basic life, communication and job skills.

There are social services like food stamps available from the government. Too often former orphans decide not to work at all because they can get more money and services from the government if they don’t work. Lack of initiative feeds lack of self esteem and purpose, building on an orphan’s lack of self-worth, and hope is lost.

It was in the 1990s that George Steiner visited Russia and saw the problems, but also felt an unyielding pull on his heart so strong that he committed his life to helping a population so desperately in need and so thoroughly isolated.

Next time in Part III, you’ll hear about how Russian orphans find Orphan’s Tree, and specific ways on how Orphan’s Tree helps these otherwise hopeless individuals.