51 children whose orphanage was destroyed by Russian forces attacking Kharkiv have found a safe, new home in a bucolic village in the west of Ukraine near the Romanian border, The children, who had been in state care because of abusive family situations, range in age from 1 to 16.
This is all thanks to a businessman called George Arveladze and his wife Anastasia who have in a matter of weeks located an empty state-owned building, and quickly refurbished it enough to receive the first group of children (see the photos below). Their next goal is to expand it as fast as possible, with our help, to accept and house another 100 children who have been orphaned by the war.
And it doesn’t stop there. They have ideas about how to make this children’s home better than it ever was, creating educational opportunities these kids would never had access to in Kharkiv. They need to raise funds to feed and house the children and pay for staff, but they hope for more, despite or because of the war. They want these children and those war orphans who follow to have a real future
George immediately managed to engage one of the older boys who was drifting into drugs. He didn’t smile. but it was clear he was passionate about a sport called “Parkour”, a combination off running, jumping, and climbing to overcome obstacles while building strength and endurance. George suggested that he develop his love of this sport to one day create a business but he warned him that would mean he had to learn math. If he worked at it George said he would back him. That suddenly made sense and this 16 year-old now has a goal beyond a goal post.
All the children at the orphanage are extremely well cared for but the staff, as in all childrens’ homes in this part of world, is overwhelmingly female so there are no male role models. One exception to that is Joe Davidson, the son of Art, one of our founders, He has been helping to rehabilitate the facility and has provided a piano so music now fills the rooms as children take lessons from a local teacher, Joe is also a mean soccer player. ”They love taking me to play, One boy David comes to my room to make sure I go with them. We walk on a small road with quaint houses on either side, There is a group of geese we pass every day Most homes have a garden with flowers and vegetables and a yard filled with chickens, goats and horses. Some people pass by on a horse-drawn wagon, I’ve been getting some of the boys to juggle the soccer ball and count how many they get in English. I have to say it’s easy to forget about the war out here.” The war, however, is never far away. Some children are so traumatized by what they have gone through they don’t speak. Joe hears sobs and crying at night.
The next phase will be even more challenging as the orphanage takes in children whose parents have been killed in this war. The need for more staff and psychiatric care will grow.