Yesterday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day! I love every opportunity to celebrate women’s leadership and contributions to global transformation. Since beginning to work at Children’s HopeChest almost four years ago, I have gained friendships with women around the world who I look up to and learn from.
There’s Ayni in Ethiopia, who we featured last year on International Women’s Day for her work liberating women and families from domestic violence. There’s Sandra, a strategic and driven leader in Uganda, who was previously a college professor, and now runs all of HopeChest Uganda’s programs. Hellen is co-leader of Mt. Elgone CarePoint in Kenya and knows each of the 260+ children’s names and personal stories. Almita in Guatemala leads Oasis de Amor CarePoint and spends time building relationships with each family in the community to connect them with resources and opportunities. (This woman is a fearless leader. Without hesitation, she was the first to cross an overflowing river when we visited families in her community and it began to pour rain.)
There simply isn’t enough blog space to name and celebrate all of the amazing women who lead HopeChest CarePoints and programs. If we listed each of their accomplishments, academic achievements, and profound relationships that have brought healing to communities, you’d be reading for months. (Maybe I’ll pitch a HopeChest “Women You Should Know Wednesday” blog theme?) Today, though, I’d like to give a special shoutout to five amazing women in Russia who lead country programs and CarePoints with grit and passion.
Katya, HopeChest Russia Country Director
Katya has been Russia Country Director for over 25 years! When HopeChest first started to work in Russian orphanages in 1994, it was a very difficult time in Russia as it transitioned from the Soviet Era. Katya stepped into leadership and over two decades later continues to lead her staff in Russia with strength and compassion. Her expertise and years of experience are indispensable. She received a doctorate from St. Petersburg State University in post-institutional adaptation of Russian orphans and speaks throughout Russia and Eastern Europe on family-based intervention programs for older orphans. Thanks to her work, we have the opportunity, and the demand from state officials, to be educators about the wellbeing of orphaned youth. The Vladimir CarePoint regularly has up to 35 specialists from all over districts and regions of Russia who come to learn how to work with orphaned children and youth.
Masha, HopeChest Russia’s Program Coordinator and Finance Director
Masha has been working with HopeChest since 1998, which is shortly after she completely changed her career from a concert pianist (she holds a masters and doctorate in concert piano!) to advocating for orphaned children and youth. She oversees CarePoint programs, which empower orphaned youth to move toward independent, successful lives. Masha is one of HopeChest Russia’s greatest resources. She says that their staff’s goal is to attract orphaned youth to the CarePoint with love, by providing them comprehensive programs, helping them to raise their self-esteem, helping them find a job, and helping them realize who they are.
Yana, Kostroma Sponsorship Coordinator
In 2001, Yana was invited to work as a translator in a summer camp with orphaned children. It was a life-changing experience. She became a disciple at two orphanages and then, in 2004, became the Sponsorship Coordinator. She coordinates sponsorship programs in seven orphanages in the Kostroma region and oversees the work of disciplers who work in these seven institutions. She also works with older orphans who are interested in doing volunteer work. In 2016, she started coordinating the Peer-to-Peer Mentorship Project. Yana continues to contribute excellent work and leadership within Russia programs.
Natasha, Vladimir Sponsorship Coordinator
Natasha was a university student when she found out about HopeChest in 2000. Since she majored in English, she was asked to translate for American teams at HopeChest summer camps. Those first camps changed her life forever. She felt the call to be involved in this work, and started to volunteer for Nadezhda Fund (HopeChest’s Russian sister organization), and later was hired full-time. She visits orphanages in the Vladimir region, oversees and coordinates the Life Skills Program, and works with volunteers who are orphanage graduates. She also works in the CarePoint office, counseling older orphans, and organizing and coordinating different activities for them. Natasha does an amazing job planning activities that are inspiring and encouraging for orphanage graduates who are exploring how to live independently.
Tatyana, Vladimir Counselor
In 1999, Tatyana worked in a Tech School in Russia, where lots of older orphaned youth studied. She found out about Children’s HopeChest and was invited to work more closely with the population of orphaned youth at the Tech School. Now Tatyana works as a counselor and social worker at Vladimir CarePoint. During a typical day, she provides individual counseling and makes phone calls to various government agencies and organizations on behalf of the orphaned youth in order to help them resolve their issues. Sometimes she accompanies them to appointments at these agencies, or goes to the agencies on their behalf (if they are unable to go themselves). She also conducts group sessions at the CarePoint, and provides similar support for participants of the Young Mothers and Young Families programs. Tatyana’s dedication to help orphaned youth find healing and integration with their communities is beyond inspiring.
As we continue celebrating International Women’s Day, and Women’s History Month this March, I encourage you to reach out to the women you know who are making a genuine impact in the world — the women who do not seek acclaim, but do the necessary and holy work of serving others every day. Many of the women who do community development work go unrecognized, as George Eliot said, “for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life…”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dana Owens, HopeChest’s Branding and Communications Manager, supports the organization by writing and editing various texts and visuals. She manages all external messaging and content for HopeChest. She received her bachelor’s degree in English literature at University of Colorado and is studying Russian language. Her favorite novel is “Doctor Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak and in her free time she is reading, exploring, and snapping film photos with her husband.