In 1994, the ministry of Children’s HopeChest was founded in Russia after the collapse of the USSR. With a broken society, thousands of vulnerable children were facing abandonment, abuse and neglect, and as a result were placed in institutions. In Russia, the vast majority of children are perceived as “social orphans” because the child’s parent(s) are still alive, but are unable to properly care for the child, thus are surrendered to an orphanage. Yet, when a child “graduates” from an orphanage at age 16 is when they are the most vulnerable. Additionally, many people have prejudices against orphanage graduates because they believe that almost all orphans will turn to crime, drugs, or prostitution to survive.
The struggles that orphans in Russia face often begin after they are dismissed from the orphanage. The second crisis begins the day they “graduate.” On this day, their chances for survival are cut in half. Most children are required by the government to leave the orphanage by age 16.
Life in an institution leaves them completely unprepared to manage simple tasks of life—or to make good choices about relationships, who to trust, or how to spend their time. No guidance and no accountability mean no compass or direction in life. Orphaned girls are especially vulnerable to prostitution and sex trafficking.
In October 2016, Children’s HopeChest celebrated 20 years of ministry with Fund Nadezhda, the Russian nonprofit organization that operates throughout Russia and is partnered with Children’s HopeChest. Children’s HopeChest in Russia started small, but over time has grown into a child sponsorship program as well as CarePoints that provide extensive resources for Russia’s vulnerable teenagers and young adults. We have seen kids in orphanages grow up to create their own healthy families, know Christ, graduate from universities, become employees of Fund Nadezhda, and even win Special Olympic gold medals! We have seen the orphan stigma reduced, older youth empowered, and hope and dignity restored.