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real people...real stories

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My friend, Rachel just returned from a trip to Ukraine where she registered kids for a hosting program. While there she found herself drawn to the older kids, the ones who will soon be released from the orphanage at the age of 16 and left on their own. She would love to help them find their forever families. I encourage you to read her post...let the kids speak to you. Then consider what you can do to help these children realize their dreams.
I think the thing that surprised me most about this trip was that the kids that tugged my heart the most were teenagers, and so many of them boys! Their kind and tender hearts, somehow miraculously preserved through their lives' hardships, shone through in our interviews and interaction time. Their hugs and their smiles and their eagerness for affection and interaction were so genuine. I never saw that coming in a million years - I thought it was the little ones I'd gravitate to. But, my heart ached for these teens to have the chance to stay kids for just a few years longer.


There are a handful of kids whose cases are most urgent: these are the ones that are turning 16 before the host program starts this summer. If by some miracle, a family already called to adoption and paper/immigration ready sees their story and acts quickly to file an I-600, sight unseen before their birthday, there is still hope for these kids to experience a family. Alternately, if these kids are not matched with adoption ready families immediately, they will still be available for summer hosting as "host only" kids. Having those 5 weeks to experience American life and the love of a family (many of which keep in touch long-term with their host-only kids) would be an adventure of a lifetime for them and a real confidence booster, before they are turned out into adulthood.
Here are their stories (re-posted from LeAnn's FB page, with some of my own comments added in italics - and more bios coming in the near future...):

"His is the most urgent... Birthday 2/25 he will be 16. His name is Vladimir L. and he is in L. Ukraine. (I can supply region details to those interested, but blanking out here to protect his identity.) He went to a foster family where he felt it was his chance but after a year he was brought back by system as it was realized the foster dad had him sleeping on a sofa and had bought nothing for him. (Nor sent him to school, fed or clothed him...he was only fostering him for the money.) He has really low self esteem now (because he thought that was his big chance...) and is a gentle spirit but oh how he needs affirmation. He is the soccer team goalie, would like to learn accordion, he is a painter and dreams to become a famous painter someday. Loves to read in school especially foreign Lit. Shy but not too shy. If he had money for a present, he would buy a painting for his director for her birthday or he would buy supplies to make a painting for her. He has no siblings and no relatives. 8th grade now. Director especially says he is a great boy. He admitted he knows no English but wants to learn and promises to study!" (I cannot find a picture of this boy, amongst my 900! But I remember him clearly - he was the first to start to soften my heart towards the teen boys. I did not interview him, but watched as LeAnn did, from across the hall. He was tall and thin and sat nervously with his shoulders hunched during the interview. He was soft-spoken, but shyly eager and made good eye-contact. His hair was cropped short and slicked down, except for a little unruly shock that stood up in the back, and the mother in me wanted to reach out and smooth it down for him, and reassure him.)

"Next urgent is Julia who is from xxxxxx (again, can supply details to interested parties) orphanage in Ukraine.
Her birthday is 3/20 when she will be 16. She sings and dances and also speaks some German. (They are taught German at this orphanage in school.) She wants to train to be a professional singer and would love to see a Broadway show. She would really like to learn English and committed to self study online between now and when she comes to the USA to be more prepared. We explained about modesty in our host families with dress as compared to E Europe and she said that was not a problem as she dresses modestly already. She has two little brothers w/mom and new husband. Mom chose husband over her. Great eye contact, plays basket ball, dances Ukraine traditional on team. Very sweet, open, friendly, positive thinking girl w/ beauty from within that shows on her face!"

"Next is Anastasia (Nastia) who is from a new orphanage where we met the most awesome group of last chance 15 year olds ever!
(Nastia - left - with a classmate and friend.)
Her birthday is 5/15 and she will be 16. No siblings and has been in the orphanage for 6 years. She is also behind in school in 6th grade and needs a patient mom who can probably homeschool her through gaps to catch up. She has patience of a saint as she was our last interview and literally waited hours before her turn. Her friends would describe her as a great athlete and good in any sport. She is the ping pong champ in an orphanage full of older teen boys! Freckled face and light brown hair with hazel/gray eyes. She is somewhat shy but open to us and very interested in the program and coming to America. Of course, her favorite subject is PE but she also likes math and Literature. Loves dogs and is responsible for orphanage dog who has a litter of pups. Likes to draw and has lots of friends but no 1 best friend. Other awesome kids said everyone loves her and claims her as their friend. Enjoys especially small children and said she understood family rules would be different and knows she would need to follow them. Very calm and quiet at first, but once we got her going, she opened right up and shared easily."

"Next is GQ super model young man, Rostik! (He goes by Raj)
(Rostik - right - with a classmate and friend, Zhenya 14 - also about to age out of the orphanage, as he's in 9th grade, the highest grade offered at the boarding schools/Internats in this region.)
He is 15 and his birthday is 5/31. He is actually "gypsy" descent so he is clueless as to his future or current ability to be a model! In his country there is great prejudice against people of gypsy culture with darker features and olive skin. He learned about weight lifting at a summer camp and really enjoys staying in shape now but there is no equipment at the orphanage. He is an excellent soccer player and wants to play on a competition/city team. As for a future trade, he hasn't decided but shared he has 2 options: metal cutting in a factory or welding, but there are no jobs. (He was very thoughtful about his interview answers.) Would like any kind of family but especially would like to have a brother around his age. Very interested in cars and especially liked idea that kids in America can drive at 16 as its 18 in Ukraine. He is already 5'7-5'9 and will probably have more growing to do. He was one of the best huggers we met there and he has a smile that melts a mom's heart. Loves horses and would like to learn to ride; also likes all dogs! He has been in this orphanage 6 years and is in 9th grade so he is done in a few more months and will be on his own. Very kind, appropriately affectionate, smart, happy and hung out most of the day with team member Darren, our NE coordinator."

"Next is Genady who is 15 and birthday is 6/1 when he turns 16. (Same orphanage and class as Rostik, and this is the orphanage where all the boys washed out very, very dirty van in 20 degree weather til it sparkled.)
(Genady - right - and Ivan/Vanya - left. Vanya also turns 16 in June - I will post his bio as soon as I get it from LeAnn - another GREAT kid.)
He is small for his age and is probably 5'2" or 5'3". Brown hair, brown eyes and possibly Armenian or Georgian descent which gives him olive skin and darker eyes. He loves all sports, especially Basketball with dreams to attend a pro-basketball game and attend a basketball camp. Favorite subjects in school are PE and chemistry. He was quiet yet very friendly, loves ALL animals and was helpful and very polite to our team. When asked what he would do if he had 3 wishes, his first was "to be adopted", 2nd to be a basketball star and 3rd to have a happy family. When we asked what kind of family, he said one with other children if possible. When asked what we could share with a potential family that is unique about him, he floored us with his..."tell them I am kind and believe in God. I pray 3 times a day for Him to find me a family." When we explained we would also be praying for him, he said thank you and expressed his gratitude. He wears a black leather cross necklace that he bought and he never takes it off."

PLEASE feel free to re-post and share any of this information and spread the word about these great kids!!! Please pray for these kids as well. More bios coming...

4 salty messages:

Annie February 16, 2011 at 4:37 PM  

How did you manage to get her whole post on your blog?

I want to do that, but don't know how.

Pam DeFrees February 18, 2011 at 12:15 PM  

Wow....I'm pretty positive I recognize those last 4 boys. The boys melt my heart as well. Maybe because I have 4 boys of my own. Every year that I go, it's the teen age boys that I seem to hang out with the most. My husband and I are working on our paper work right now to bring a few home! :)
I didn't realize this was your blog, Tami, until I got to the end...this is Tami from Troy right? :)


Anonymous,  February 21, 2011 at 8:09 PM  

Oh my word. Now I'm crying! I just want to be their mom -- all of them.

Phogles March 22, 2011 at 9:35 AM  

I would be interested in host family info, I know nothing about the program, email phogles{at}hotmail{dot}com

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