Russian orphans and a generous December

letters_happychildhood_rcws Over at Babylune there’s a group writing project where bloggers are being asked to highlight their favorite charity. I thought it was a great chance to offer a little support to my favorite charity, and support a very positive writing project.

I came across the Russian Children’s Welfare Society a few years ago through an Internet search trying to identify a charity for the benefit of Russian children. Having lived in Russia for several years in the mid-90s, I’ve always had a soft spot for the country. In addition, I’ve always been very moved by the plight of the most helpless people in any society – the very young, the very ill and the very old. The RCWS has been in existence since 1926. The primary purpose – to help Russian children – has become especially critical after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia now has nearly 700,000 children in orphanages, a sad total, but nothing compared to the estimated 2.5 million homeless children. The RCWS directs its giving in several ways (from the website):

  • Medical care, the education of the Russian doctors that provide it, and supplies
  • Orphanages and homeless shelters
  • Rehabilitation centers for the disabled or mentally challenged
  • Educational scholarships
  • A Moscow “Yelka” (New Year) party during the holiday season for over 2,000 children. We believe it is the most important celebration of its kind in Russia. Each child receives a gift. For many, it is the only one they will receive for Christmas.

There are also programs specifically benefiting the survivors of the Beslan massacre. The Beslan massacre took place September 1, 2004 at a school in the North Caucasus. A group of terrorists took the school hostage, and on the third day of the standoff a gun battle broke out with Russian security forces. Over 300 civilians were killed, including 186 children. For a town with only 35,000 residents this was a horrific blow, and the need for psychological and emotional support is critical.

Most Westerners have never had to see the horror of children begging and stealing in the streets. It is truly one of the most awful things you can see, and it affects me even more deeply as a parent now. The thought of children meeting Ded Moroz (Santa Claus/St. Nicholas) at the RCWS Yelka (basically the Russian equivalent of a Christmas party) for the first time in their lives and receiving what may be for many of them the first present they’ve ever received in their lives always makes me tear up.

RCWS also helps with scholarships for older orphans, reconstructive surgery (cleft palates, etc.) and many other programs. There’s simply so much to do that I’m sure even if they received millions every year they’d still spend it all without spending a minute worrying about HOW.

RCWS spends more on direct aid to children than it takes in (as of 2005, the latest available public data). You can read more about them at Guidestar (registration required).

I know there are many important and desperate causes in the world, and everyone has to decide what is important in their own mind. Here is the contact information for the RCWS.

Russian Children’s Welfare Society, Inc.
200 Park Avenue South, Suite 1617
New York, NY 10003
Fax: 1-212-473-6301

Note 1: RCWS does not assist in adoptions in any way, shape or form. They are not an adoption agency, so please don’t assume they will help in any way, shape or form with adoptions!
Note 2: I am not in any way affiliated with RCWS other than as a donor.

8 Replies to “Russian orphans and a generous December”

  1. I like groups like that which offer a variety of services. It makes it more fun to partner with them…instead of just sending money to a group which always does the same thing. Not that the same thing is bad, but variety is the spice of life and exciting for the giver.

  2. Thank you so much for this! I am from Moscow originally and lived there until 1994. I’ve been on the lookout for an org to contribute my few meager dollars to and this is perfect for me – I’ve read a bit about Russian orphans and I always feel horrible for them because I know that economic and social pressures make it next to impossible for them to be adopted “at home.” I will certainly follow up on this and likely make regular donations.

  3. Mrs. Micah, I agree – it’s nice to see a core philosophy implemented in different ways year to year.

    Dasha – thank you for the comment! I’m glad I was able to help you find RCWS! I just missed you by a couple of years in Moscow, since I started working there in 1996. A lot of people left in the mid-90s, though – my wife emigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1996. Moscow was in some ways the best and worst place for the poor I saw. Public services (orphanages, etc.) were of course available, but the horrific cost of living in Moscow made poverty that much worse. It’s hard to believe it’s now the most expensive city in the world, isn’t it?

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