|Older boys from the orphanage: Losha, Sergey, Vanya, Stas and Sasha on the end.|
All but Sergey (in yellow) and Vanya (black) aged out in 2011.
I heard today that one of the older boys from the orphanage was arrested for armed robbery. Sasha, seen above, robbed a small store at gunpoint. He also had a taser with him. The timing of this news was eerie -- I had spent all week tweaking the mission statement of the very organization I've been working on to help kids just like him.
I've known Sasha since he was 10 years old. He was there all those years ago when I adopted Nastia. Until last June, he slept in the bed just opposite D in the Star Group. He had a terrible early life -- a drug-addicted mother, and an older brother who made him deliver drugs for them until he was taken to the orphanage at about age 10. He has run away many times, and has often been in trouble since I've known him. He was one of the boys that the Director had told me was a hopeless case. ' We tried,' she told me in September 2010, ' But he's too damaged...'
If you read my blog regularly, Sasha was one of the boys I got really angry with on this last June trip when he stole food I bought for the younger kids -- right out of their hands -- as they left the little grocery store on the edge of the orphanage property. When I confronted him, he laughed at me and called me some pretty horrible names. He is also the bully who used D as a kind of personal slave. When I used to call weekly after leaving Russia last December, Sasha would stand by D on the phone and demand he ask for certain expensive items of me. Once he grabbed the phone and told me he would rape D if I didn't hurry up and send him a computer.
Sasha aged out of the orphanage in 2011 and left the orphanage for good in late June. And now? Nine months after I last saw him, Sasha is headed to prison for a long, long time. The prison system in this part of Russia is described as worse than hell. Some inmates die of starvation before they ever get out. Many die of hypothermia. And an incredible number from the violence that is a daily ritual there.
As much as I dislike Sasha, I mourn the fact that he is headed to such a terrible place. I can't judge him for what he's done. His life has been one long, dark tragedy from the beginning. What would I have done if I had lived a life like his?
This is just one small example of why a support system is needed for these kids. Having a roof over their head and food to eat is not enough. There is nothing there for them. Nothing. Sasha is just one of dozens of boys aging out from this one orphanage every year. What can he do but turn to crime? With no real education, no guidance, no home, no job, no food, and no examples set for him throughout his life...what else would you expect him to do? It's either crime or starve to death for so many of these boys.
Here is the news clip. You might recognize Sasha from photos I posted back in 2010. Sasha is the one facing front and sideways and the first of the two to talk to the camera.
I've wached too many kids from this orphanage make horrible choices once they leave. I think often of where my daughter would be today if she hadn't left. Not hard to imagine where she'd have ended up. Out of all the kids who have aged out since my daughter left, I know of only two who are relatively ok. Two, out of close to seventy. Something needs to be done.
I am almost ready to file the bylaws for the new non-profit I've been working on since last summer. Filing the state papers by the end of the month and then we can file for 501c3 status. It's been hard to do with no money coming in, but it is finally happening. Once that is done, we can really start making a real dent over there. Something IS being done.
I have two former students of mine who stand ready to make significant monetary donations once we have our Federal tax ID number. I also have over a dozen people ready to fly over there and work on the house we plan to buy whenever we're ready to go. I even have two trustworthy friends in Prokopyevsk who are interested in living there and caring for the house as we get on our feet. Much to do, and it takes infinite patience. We must work with the structures that already exist, and that takes a great deal of time.