For those of us fortu- nate enough to live in the United States, it is difficult to imagine parents refusing to raise their child or children.
Yet, in Russia it is something that is all too common and all too heartbreaking.
Alcoholism continues to be a reality for many Russians, and as a result, some children are born with physical and/or mental handicaps.
Parents give them up to government orphanages.
Some of the children are removed from these homes because of abuse or neglect.
This is the world our team of nine volunteers from Youngstown entered when we visited Orphanage 10 in St. Petersburg, Russia, during Youngstown State University’s spring break last month.
There are 56 children in this orphanage, and they quickly became close friends and playmates after our arrival.
On our first day, we were separated into groups of three and assigned to various classes.
The classroom I entered found all of the children sitting around a table that featured a beautifully decorated cake and tea cups.
The staff person visited pleasantly with us and the children while the cake and tea were served; the children sat politely and enjoyed the entire experience.
After our dessert, we brought out crafts that the children enjoyed making.
From then on, children could be found hanging around our rooms, waiting to play UNO, kickball or volleyball.
The hoodies we brought for all of the children and teens were a hit.
Many of them wore their special hoody every day we were there.
We were treated to a concert that featured the children singing, dancing and acting.
Afterward, all performers received a new watch from us, which they were thrilled to wear.
Near the end of our stay we handed out gift bags to each child and teen that included markers, crayons, coloring books, slinkies, yo-yos, combs, brushes, deodorant, body wash, colored pencils, writing tablets, socks, pens, stickers, flashlights, playing cards, hair accessories and lighted bouncing balls.
After receiving them, all of the children yelled “spacebo” in unison over and over.
We were also able to buy 17 pairs of new shoes for teens who needed them.
We also provided the funds for our work project, which included painting the library and installing flooring in a suite of three rooms.
A concern of our team was this — what happens to these children once they leave the orphanage?
While the severely disabled will continue to live in group homes, statistics indicate 90 percent of orphans who graduate from the orphanage become “lost.”
We met a young woman named Victoria, a former orphan herself, who works with organizations who help orphan graduates find jobs, get job-training or attend a university.
We appreciated what Vika had to tell us about the challenges these teens face, and we gave her a financial contribution to help with some of her expenses.
Team members visited gorgeous Russian Orthodox cathedrals, viewed amazing artwork in the Hermitage, navigated the crazy metro and saw graves of past Russian emperors.
We were all impressed with this grand and beautiful city.
The Rev. Kathryn T. Adams is director of Protestant Campus Ministry at Youngstown State University.