NEW YORK – On January 30, three non-profit organizations – Sublimitas, Razom and Ukrainian New Wave – that are working to advance social justice, human rights and democracy in Ukraine held a fund-raiser, “Invisible No More: Orphans and Street Children in Ukraine” at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City, which included a screening of the documentary “Bomzhi” (“The Homeless,” 2012).
The purpose of the event was twofold: to raise awareness about orphans and street children in Ukraine and to raise funds for the Sublimitas program “Paving the Path to University.” The event opened with Mariya Soroka, community relations and event director at Razom, who welcomed the guests and introduced the event co-hosts.
“Sublimitas” means elevation or elevated state of mind and character in Latin. The organization’s mission is to inspire and empower disadvantaged children and youth to develop their potential through education. Its guiding principles are based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), with a central belief that each child deserves a quality education in safe living conditions.
“Razom” means together in Ukrainian. Formed in the wake of the Euro Maidan civic protest movement, Razom’s mission is to foster democracy and civil society in Ukraine through a global network of professionals and experts by supporting individuals and organizations in Ukraine that advocate for democracy and human rights.
New Ukrainian Wave is an all-American organization dedicated to representing the interests of the new Ukrainian immigrants in the U.S., as well as to encouraging and facilitating the national unity of Ukrainians, preserving Ukrainian traditions and customs, and advocating the political, cultural and historical achievements of the Ukrainian people.
Following this brief introduction, the floor was given to the special guest of the event: the permanent representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, Dr. Yuriy Sergeyev, who spoke about some of the current challenges facing orphans and street children in Ukraine and expressed his strong support of the Sublimitas mission and programs.
After Ambassador Sergeyev’s remarks, Alla Korzh, director of research and programs at Sublimitas, spoke in some detail about the plight of orphans in Ukraine. Currently, Ukraine is home to as many as 150,000 street children and at least 94,000 orphans.
Of the latter, about 3 percent are biological orphans with no living parents, and 97 percent are “social orphans” with at least one living parent but deprived of parental care due to parental substance abuse, domestic violence or incarceration. About 25 percent of all orphans live in orphanages and study in self-contained secondary schools, eventually aging out of those institutions when they turn 18.
Street children are essentially social orphans who escaped troubled households and sought refuge among their peers on the street. Unlike those in orphanages, street children are at a much higher risk of dangerous life styles, such as substance abuse, violence and crime.
Andrej Naterer, a Slovenian sociologist, spent 10 years conducting anthropological research on street children in the east of Ukraine. He became an insider to the subculture of street children, gained their trust and became their friend. One of the boys in the group suggested that he film a documentary about street children to help raise awareness about their lifestyle. Mr. Naterer followed up on that suggestion and made the documentary “Bomzhi,” which was screened at the event.
Following the powerful screening, Ms. Korzh presented Sublimitas’ programs, including mentoring, as well as introduced to the audience seven orphans from one of the rural orphanages in Ukraine who are currently being sponsored by Sublimitas to prepare for university entrance exams in order to pursue higher education.
Among the highlights of the event was Iryna Mazur’s (New Ukrainian Wave) story about her involvement with Sublimitas. She spoke about the collective responsibility of all Ukrainians to help raise the disadvantaged children of Ukraine. Ms. Mazur volunteered to be a sponsor for one of the orphans by donating $300 to cover the cost of the program between January and May of this year, encouraging audience members to follow suit.
A small reception, sponsored by Korchma Taras Bulba, Cloister Café, Sly Fox and New Ukrainian Wave, followed the main event, allowing the guests to mingle and discuss the documentary. Most importantly, many expressed interest in getting involved and supporting orphans through Sublimitas programs.
During the reception, Mariya Soroka announced that $5,000 was raised thanks to everyone’s generous donations. These funds will enable seven talented and motivated orphans to receive after-school tutoring and prepare for university entrance exams, so that they can go on to pursue their dreams.
Heartfelt thanks were offered to everyone who made this event possible, to all the generous donors, to all the caring people who do not remain indifferent to the plight of Ukrainian orphans and street children.
For more information about the co-organizers of the fund-raiser, readers may visit the following websites: for Sublimitas – http://www.sublimitaschildren.org; for Razom – http://razomforukraine.org; and for New Ukrainain Wave – http://www.newwave4.org.
To support Ukrainian orphans’ education, readers may contact Ms. Korzh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Bohdan Pechenyak for the Ukrainian Weekly