On the 15th August 2014, Universal Aid for Children (UAC) Ukraine has graduated their 500th student from their Scholarship program in Odessa.
‘I achieved my main goal – I finished studying and got a diploma and now have a profession I always dreamed about,’ said Vyacheslav Miroshnichenko, a recent graduate.
The UAC'S Orphaned Teen Scholarship Program was established in 1998 with the ambitious aim to allow orphaned children a chance at higher education. ‘The social stigma of an “orphan” is a challenge to overcome in Ukrainian society. The bleak economic reality faced by a 17 year old being released from an orphanage is even worse. What do they do? Without help, the scenario is scary. Options include prostitution, crime, drug abuse or suicide. With no family or stable support system, they have little hope’, said Clara Pascal, founder/director, UAC Ukraine Program.
UAC is a not for profit organization that employs teachers and tutors in math, Ukrainian, English and science. UAC staff also teach music and basic reading and writing skills to many of their disabled children. They orchestrate ongoing arts and crafts projects and sports activities to ‘promote the children’s emotional and physical well being’. UAC also provide students of all ages with learning materials and school supplies. ‘Our Orphaned Teen Scholarship Program is a unique opportunity to make a dramatic difference in a young person’s life. The kids receiving scholarships all come from orphanages in Odessa, Ukraine. They live and study in the orphanage’, said a UAC statement.
Give Giving a Go spoke to the Ukraine Orphan Outreach and they stated that Ukraine’s average standard of living has decreased by 80% over the last 20 years and that poverty and sickness are brought on by the inability to provide adequate nutrition and healthcare. In fact, for children it is worse and the Ukraine Orphan Outreach go on to state that: ‘100,000 orphans live in Ukraine’s 450 orphanages, 100,000 more children are on the streets because the orphanages are full, 10% of orphans commit suicide after leaving the orphanage before their 18th birthday, 60% of the girls end up in prostitution, 70% of the boys end up in crime, only 27% are able to find work’. These facts highlight the importance of this UAC scholarship program.
'It would ve very hard without this program; not just because of the money but because we have people who support us during difficult times, smile when we have success, look strictly upon us if we lose our way, and pull us back from the precipices', said Alena Zhuravskaya, another recent graduate.
UAC was established by Clara Pascal in 1995 in response to the conditions she saw there. ‘It was founded after my first trip to Ukraine in April 1995, when I witnessed horrifying conditions in the orphanages of Odessa while shooting a documentary video there’, said Clara. UAC Ukraine strives to improve the quality of life for thousands of abandoned and displaced children through direct aid. They currently serve more than twenty institutions in the Odessa region. They provide an excellent local staff of trained professionals and a wide range of direct services, including nutrition, primary healthcare, psychological counseling, and educational programs for both staff and children.
The orphanages at UAC range from infants with disabilities to teenagers up to the age of 18. 'Our program, working with local staff and medical and educational professionals, can provide support for all orphans. We serve as surrogate parents through their transition period from orphanage to the university or vocational school they attend', said a statement from UAC. Not only this, but the program encourages ex-orphanage residents to help with the new residents there. 'They return to the orphanage once a week to earn their monthly stipend (50 USD) working with the kids they left behind. They are sharing their knowledge and special gifts', highlighted Clara.
Other successes of the program have been the likes of Sasha Malenky, who joined the UAC Orphaned Teen Scholarship Program in 2009 after graduating from Orphanage #7 (a facility for children with physical handicaps). ‘As a child, Sasha defied all odds by surviving a 10,000 volt electrocution’, said UAC. He fought to recover and to walk again and in the summer of 2012, Sasha graduated from Odessa Professional School #33. ‘His other accomplishments include: learning to type on a computer (with limited hand/finger use), learning to drive a car, and supporting his wife and young daughter’, highlighted UAC.
Also, Lera Radzievskaya was a 14 year old who lost everything. ‘My mother died when I was 14 years old and over six years I lost all my relatives. It made it very hard for a young girl’, said Lera. Lera studied at the scholarship program and is now studying at Odessa Medical University to be a doctor.
UAC’s Orphaned Teen Scholarship Program’s success stems from its design to prepare teenage orphans for higher education and life management in the outside world. The success of UAC’s Ukrainian Program has been ‘the result of many talented volunteers and sponsors, willing to donate their time and resources to these grateful people’, said UAC. ‘It is amazing the power that having someone else believe in them gives them’, said Clara.
‘They have suffered long enough. Enormous wealth has been created and distributed from this region throughout the world in recent years, as the tears of the innocent continue to flow’, concluded Clara.
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