Guns, Knives and Too Much Time
Today we wanted to write to you about a group of orphan teens who live at a remote college in the Ryazan region of Russia. Miles from anywhere, these young people have been placed here having been labelled as 'disabled' when in reality they have learning difficulties.
What's it like?...
This sprawling old building is so underfunded it resembles a derelict prison and will never be a place that fills them with aspirations.
The girls and boys are on separate floors but share a common room with an old couch and a TV set to entertain them. The dorms are sparse; each teen has an old bed with a thin mattress, a small cabinet and no possessions to speak of.
When classes are over, this is home. Teenagers with no structure and too much time tend to push boundaries.
The director of this college has his hands full. He's responsible for 30 orphans and 60 children from the local area. He says: "One of our biggest problems are the summer holidays when the kids are here in the dormitories for months with nothing to do”.
As well as the usual drug and alcohol experimentation, he frequently finds and confiscates guns and knives from the boys who have sourced them to feel cool and strong.
The future for these extremely deprived orphan teens does appear bleak, but there is hope.
Slava, a pastor in Ryazan and mentor to several other orphans, sees the pressure the director is under and gives his support. He provides some ‘after-school’ structure to their endless amounts of spare time. Slava observes how each of them has difficulty concentrating. “They have no ability to focus on anything - not even the television” he says.
Through building friendships, Slava has helped many orphans, and continues to do so. The early adult years are treacherous and poverty and bad influences can plunge their lives to into chaos.
Connection is key in changing this says Slava, so he spends time with them walking, talking, collecting litter from the grounds or having a kick-about.
He also likes to offer them small, paid ‘odd-jobs’ to keep them busy.
He told us: “None of them have any concept of real life outside. Here they are fed and have no responsibilities - it’s a shock when they leave”.
Should any orphanage leaver face being homeless when their time at college is up, Slava is able to offer them a place in a transition home where there are rules and responsibilities and he can keep an eye on them.
This ministry requires a great deal of time, finances and patience because seeing change in these young people won’t happen overnight.
The director told us that the orphans here lost hope that they had something to offer the world long ago, let alone be capable of work.
Please support Slava's work here in this community by donating to our education support project fund.
You can also pray for this group of 30 orphan teens;
that they'll stay away from danger,
that during summer break they'll be kept occupied,
and that Slava can establish real connections and prepare them for the outside world so they begin to believe that they have prospects and lives of value.