When I first went to Ukraine in 2005, I saw kids living underground, in sewers, dirt basements and in abandoned buildings. A year later I started a non profit called This Child Here and moved to Odessa to help “street kids.”
I worked with a Ukrainian charity called The Way Home and then began my own projects. Street kids, I learned, came from orphanages, broken families. I met trained psychologists who work with the Alternatives to Violence Program and sent them into orphanages. I hired psychologists to work with groups of kids in public schools. We focused on trust, empowerment and conflict management.
In 2010, we began preparing foster families in Ukraine to receive youth and children from orphanages. There were not many, but the number was growing. Today there are about 750 orphanges and 106,000 youth and children in them. Ukraine is closing orphanages, but the move to families is not easy. Families need to want them. Families need to be trained.
In another program, we train mentors for youth living in orphanages and facilities. Every youth and child needs a trusting relationship with adults.
In 2014, came the revolution and war. We began working for peace. We train teens how to manage conflict. It's not political. It's about the prejudice and facing the anger within. It's about relationships and finding peace within. We call it “peacemaking.” We run a summer camp for families displaced by the war. We support and strengthen these families.
Most of our work is in environments marked by conflict, distrust, and violence.
We work to build spiritual vitality: lives of inspiration, energy and commitment
We value individual reverence: every person matters, regardless of where you find them where they are from or how young or old they are. We have a reverence for that in this organization.
We believe in personal impact: people change people. People empower people. We empower youth and children. We empower families, to empower their children.
We believe every youth and child needs a life of dignity and a place of peace. A life, we say, grounded in dignity and peace.