League of Foster Families

July 21st, 2008 by Katya

What I found so interesting about my experience in Ukraine, was how haphazardly I met people doing work with orphans. Like Maryna Mikhailivna of League of Foster Families in Ukraine. I don’t even remember how I came across her contact info (actually, I think she may have contacted me not to toot my own horn). I remember being really satisfied with myself because I felt I came across a great contact on my own, without the help of my mentor in Ukraine, Maryana. When I told her that I had scheduled an interview, she knew who she was and helped me prep a bit.

Ahhhhh, how I miss all those random meetings in Ukraine. I had the address in hand, but finding a building in Kyiv is never so simple. I think I circled around a set of buildings for about a half an hour (I gave myself plenty of time, always one hour ahead of time, 20 min of which I spent shivering in the cold). I asked like five pensioners which building and all told me with certainty it was not the building I was looking for. Ahhhhh Ukraine….

Anywho, Maryna is an incredible woman. Not only did she adopt a child from the orphanages (her daughter was already a teen when she adopted, I can imagine the emotional struggles there), but she is a committed activist. When we met, I asked some pretty pointed questions about the status of orphans. Asking questions about controversial issues is not always the best way to gain people’s trust, but I guess she believed that I was really trying to help out, because she answered my questions

Some of the most interesting things we talked about was the difficulty foster parents have actually fostering a child. The government, it seems, makes is uber difficult for foster families to house children, rightly so, but it seems that the process needs to be streamlined because according to Maryna there were many families trained to be foster parents but most of them, were bogged down with paperwork and beauracratic processes. I found this sort of demoralizing since there were people who were willing to help and family structures would be so beneficial to these children.

Maryna also told me that some of the children in foster families have physical disabilities (when I asked about mental disabilities, she basically said, any child coming out of an orphanage is going to face emotional struggles- I agree). She requested my help in trying to raise money for medical care and surgery. If anyone reading this would like to help out in this regard, please let me know.

I was really impressed with Maryna’s activist spirit. One project in particular was starting an academic journal that would focus on orphans. She said that the journal would address the psychological and physical conditions of children as well as the social and political concerns.

If anyone is interested in learning more about League of Foster families, please contact me.

Stay cool everyone, drink plenty of water and eat lots of fruit (basically, the only food aside from salsa I can tolerate in the summer).

Quality of Life for disabled orphans: Isolation

July 10th, 2008 by Katya

Pulling up to the orphanage, I was surprised that this was it. I could barely make out the tiny sign explaining the “internat” (orphanage). It struck me that these buildings were constructed to hide and isolate these children from the communities surrounding them. Out of sight, and out of mind.

Good quality of life varies from person to person, however, I believe that a good life is being a successful human in harmony with my surroundings. I know this may sound very Buddhist/zen to you, but I feel its a good summation of all the different components which make up a good life.

Now, when I start to measure up an orphan’s life to my standard of good living, I observe many incongruities. The isolation of children from a community halts the act of being in harmony with one’s surroundings. Growing up in an isolated environment shatters a child’s capability to attach to other human beings. Also, unable to interact in society, orphans lack an understanding of certain norms and behaviors. As adults, these children would likely become the victims of manipulative individuals reinforcing their inability to form attachments and drive them to further isolation.

Isolating orphans has very dire effects on children with mental and physical disabilities. By keeping disabled people hidden, individuals do not have to interact with disability and lack of interaction leads to ignorance. People are fearful of what a person with disabilities is like. When Djerela organization built dorms for adults and teens with mental disabilities, neighbors protested. People were afraid that the new occupants would cause trouble and upset the peace.

Fear builds in the place of acceptance. Maybe this is why I chose to write about isolation as my first analysis of the quality of orphans’ lives. Parents who are fearful that they cannot care for a child with special needs give that child up for adoption. Many Ukrainians voiced their concern that people with disabilities are mocked and so are better off protected from the mainstream.

A disability movement has already begun in Ukraine, but I want to see more. I would love for acceptance to take the place of isolation.

My prolonged absence

July 8th, 2008 by Katya

I know, I went MIA there for over a month.

I’m learning that blogs are hard to keep going. Coming up with new content and writing about what I already now takes time, which always slips away from me, but I’m trying to be more diligent.

I guess one of the things I battle with when it comes to doing something volunteer based (do good-er activities) is my projects get sidelined when I have other things I need to do. And it makes me feel oh so bad!!!!!!!!!!!! I mean the kids in Ukraine are like on my mind, all the time.

My answer to this dilemma has always been to schedule my time better, but lately, that just hasn’t been the case. And now with impending medical school, jeez…. OK, but I’m not throwing in the towel. I have a lot of stuff I want to share with everyone out there willing to read about it, so hang in there with me.

I hope everyone is enjoying the sweltering heat. I periodically stick my head in the freezer to cool down. Check back soon.