Anyone that knows me is familiar with my enduring obsession with Russia; it’s been there since I was 13 and went to Russia for the first time on a humanitarian trip. And I fell in love. I fell in love with the people. I fell in love with the culture. I fell in love with the language. Myy heart broke. I felt then that my calling in life was to somehow help the broken people in the Russian society – the homeless, the orphans, the trafficked women. Since that moment in my life I felt I was meant to do something to help but I didn’t know what. All I knew to do was prepare myself in every way I could. I learned the language to the best of my ability and fostered every talent that I saw I had. Every trip to a bookstore ended up with me scouring the shelves for books on Russian culture. When it came time for college, I got my degree in Russian studies. When I graduated in 2009, and there were no jobs to be had that led me down the path to Russian philanthropy, I felt so lost and so frustrated and so futile. Did I make a mistake? Why did I have this passion and this drive and this intense need to do something if there was nothing apparent that I could do? My job search turned up nothing and everything just seemed to lead to a dead end. So, I gave up. I felt defeated and broken and useless.
Then something kind of miraculous happened. Russian things suddenly were popping up all around me last Fall. At first I thought it was a coincidence but it began to happen more frequently. I started to think I was noticing it more because I was just thinking about it and it was on my mind. Ideas were forming in my head. You see, for a while I’ve had this crazy thought: I’ve wanted to go to Russia to photograph the orphans and the orphanages and the homeless. Why on earth would I want to do this, you ask? I want to bring awareness to the situation happening with these groups of precious people; people so often forget that because Russia is not considered a third world country that they also have problems. I also want to use my camera as a tool to show them that they are loved and cared about; I want to tell their story. I want people to know them. I want to know them and I want them to know that they matter.
The situation is so dire that only one out of every ten orphans will become a functional member of society. The rest will succumb to drugs, crime, or suicide. Many girls become victims of trafficking when they leave the orphanage. Every year the number of “social orphans” grows. What’s a social orphan? A child with living parents that the government deems unworthy to raise their child due to moral or psychological reasons, poverty, crime, alcoholism, drugs, etc. Numerous sources show that at the moment in Russia there are 2-5 million homeless/street children, more than 700,000 orphans, about 2 million uneducated children over 11 years of age, and about 4 million child drug addicts. These numbers have significantly grown in the past 15 years.
Annually, orphans will leave the state institutions without any training or support. They have no jobs, no money to survive or live a self-sufficient life and frequently have no place to live. Statistics show that upon leaving the state orphanages, for every 10 orphans, 4 will become drug addicts and alcoholics, 4 will end up absorbed by crime, 1 will commit suicide, and only 1 – with great difficulty – will try to survive and become a functional member of society. How incredibly bleak and heartbreaking.
Finally, all of this craziness converged and I was able to connect with SunErgos International, an amazing organization that works with Russian orphans, widows, and the poor. I am being presented with an opportunity to do exactly what I have dreamed of doing but it is going to cost approximately $3500.00. So, I am asking you to help me get there. Help me in this journey to make a difference and let people know what is going on. Help me make a difference in the lives of these kids. There is so much more in my heart that I want to say and I just don’t even know how to say it. I am hoping that these statistics resonate with you. I am happy to talk with you and answer any questions you may have. Skype me (sarochka123186), call me (253-655-7848), or email me. Just help me get there and make a difference.
Reference: “Russia in Numbers. Orphaned Russia where every hundredth child becomes an orphan.” Posted by the official website of the Russian Federation Statistics Bureau (November 14, 2007)http://statistika.ru/russiainprices/2007/11/14/russiainprices_9282.html
These photos are courtesy of the wonderful people at SunErgos International.