160,000 young people currently live in Russian orphanages, 70% of whom are considered to have ‘mental deficiency’ or physical disabilities. ‘Mental deficiency’ is a broad term which covers a wide range of learning disabilities, behavioral issues and serious psychological disorders. Young people growing up in the Russian care system are evaluated at an early age and then placed in certain types of institutions depending on the results of these evaluations. Performed by external experts who only meet the youth briefly, these evaluations are often inaccurate. Shy or traumatized children are regularly assessed to be incapable of learning and are then placed in institutions where only limited learning opportunities are available. For those that manage to graduate out of the system (25% do not) a low level of education and lack of basic social skills make it difficult for them to find their place in life.
Big Change (BC) was founded in 2002 by a group of teachers desiring to help orphanage graduates successfully integrate into society. BC works with orphans and orphanage graduates to obtain an education, choose a job path and gain the confidence and skills required for independence (such as resolving problems independently). BC collaborates with educators, social workers and other childcare professionals and volunteers to identify the most effective ways of supporting orphaned youth to realize their potential and become independent adults.
EMpower’s 6th grant to Big Change helps provide educational and transitional support to young women and men in residential institutions. Big Change will also document further the lessons from its programmatic practice and disseminate its approach through engagement with both key NGOs and institutions as well as government officials.
Primary Location: Moscow
Funded Since: 2010
Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.