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).