Zaporoshyeâs website www.deti.zp.ua, which is devoted to all aspects of the orphansâ problems, I have noticed as one of the serious Internet-recourses in Ukraine few years ago. There you can find the orphanagesâ addresses and their description in Ukraine in Zaporoshye in particular; the juridical references of the foster homes and the large families; the information about adoption and the guardianship; photos, questionnaires and orphansâ works, books and articles; information about children who have serious oncological illness and what help do they need; the volunteersâ work reports. All information is in Russian in English. I think this is the only one website where all information is replenishment so quickly.
At the category âAbout the volunteersâ you can read about people who are taking part in the websiteâs work. I was surprised when I found out that Albert Pavlov, an organizer of this website, is only 28 years old. Albert Pavlov and his wife have a little daughter of their own and decided to adopt two seriously ill grown-ups â Vitja, 14 years old, and Sasha, 11 years old. In this photo you can see frank and cheerful young guyâs face. There are people who wanted to help others, because it was impossible to stay aside anymore.
- Albert, who was an initiator to take Vitja and Sasha to your family â you or your wife? And why did you decide to be a volunteer?
- We both decided to take the children. I can say that my wife was sure by 45 per cent and I was sure by 55 per cent. In 2003 we got acquainted with Andrew and Marina Belokonnymi from a religious family who helped the orphans in Donetsk. My family and I were a long way from that. We had a big wish to help the orphans but havenât got enough information. We were taking children to the camping trips, inviting them at home where they could work and play a computer games, we were watching TV together. We wanted them to be in a domestic surrounding. Gradually we get used to this. 20 children had already visited us. To prevent any illusion weâve explained them that they were only visiting us. We werenât ready to take care of anyone yet.
- Are you working now? Do you find time to do all this?
- I used to work as a programmer at the âDneprospetsstalâ. The last year of my work as the programmer I was working at the website. At first it was my hobby. But when we added a category âChildren with oncological illnessâ it was impossible to combine these two works anymore. There are few sponsors who pay me a factoryâs salary. Also weâve organized and registered our own fund.
- What is the volunteer and what is the volunteerâ job in general?
- As I understand, the volunteer is a person who does something apart his basic job. Now, when Iâm receiving the salary, Iâm not the volunteer anymore. I was the volunteer during the last three years â it was like a hobby. Now I spend all my time to the website. At first, our hobbyâs purpose was to buy and to place computers at one of the Zaporoshyeâs orphanages. There were a lot of kids who wanted to visit us, but we couldnât take all of them.
- Albert, why have you chosen Sasha and Vitja?
- Only God knows why. We were communicating almost with all kids. Every child has his own destiny. I wanted to take a boy but not too small because we couldnât take care after two small kids (my daughter is 2 years old). We wanted to help every child purposefully. There were several kids whom we wanted to take but the process with Vitjaâs adoption was convenient for us. Besides there were kids who didnât want to live in a family. But Vitja wanted. Heâs well-brought-up. Of course, heâs got some problems like every child from the orphanage has. There are many kids with a mental retardation at the orphanages. Vitja couldnât read till the age of 10, he couldnât even put words in a logical order; he was full of emotions and couldnât express them. Slowly weâve coped with this. Sasha and Vitja are from a deaf-mute family, their parents are alcoholics. We havenât completed all necessary documents for Sashaâs adoption yet. Heâs only visiting us now.
- Albert, what difficulties did you have adopting Vitja? What would you like to advise those who wanted to adopt a child and what would you like to warn them from?
- We adopted Vitja in 2005. Now I donât know all conditions of this process. Probably I have to confront with this procedure once more when weâll adopt Sasha. In 2005 we wanted to organize a foster home, but the guardianshipâs officer knew about it nothing. Besides, we donât have enough money for this. All we wanted is to get Vitja home as soon as possible. Thatâs why we made a guardianship. This procedure wasnât pleasant at all and took us 3 months. Others were surprised why we did this if we had our own child. They said we did this only for money (for each child you were receiving 90 hryvnias for that time, now you are receiving 560 hryvnias). I asked them why didnât they do the same for the sake of money either. There are many orphans, you can earn a lot.
What would I like to advise?... If you can adopt a child do it reasonably. We visited many orphanages where weâve seen nice children. Of course, they have some problems. But gradually, theyâll get used to a family, even if they are grown-ups, like in our example. Sometimes weâre quarrelling. Weâve been getting used to each other for two years. But for a child family is much better then the orphanage. I know it by myself â I wanted everything and at once. You want to change the kidâs character; you want him to be successful at the school. But donât go too far, youâll make it only worse. I think if you have already decided to adopt the child nothing can stops you. The most important is a desire to do this and to love this child. Sometimes itâs not so easy. In age, Vitja is like my younger brother.
- How do Vitja and Sasha call your wife and you?
- Vitja remembers his father. I asked him to call us mum and dad to avoid the explanations at school. But at home theyâre calling us by our names.
- Albert, do you remember your first expressions after visiting the orphanage? What did you see there?
- My first visit was to Zaporoshyeâs orphanage # 3. Conditions there were like in the barracks. Children were embracing us. It was winter, very cold ant they met us after having a bath almost undressed. It was awful. In general each orphanage differs from each other. Some are more provided some are less. But itâs still the orphanage. You can easily recognize a child from the orphanage.
- Why did you decide to organize this website?
- First of all, we wanted to absorb children and to teach them to work at the computers. Second of all, we wanted to do this by ourselves. Once I was asked to place the information about a child at the Internet. This child needed money for the operation. I was really surprised to see the results. There were people who wanted to help. And I wanted to change something for the best. I decided to share my ideas with others. There is as useful information as a request for a help at the website. By the way, as I âm a programmer it was interesting for me to work at this website. There are more authorâs materials and life stories.
- Albert, your website was popular in a very short period of time. How many people are working with you?
- At first I started by myself. Websiteâs technical support and updating is still my job. Some volunteers are coming and leaving from time to time. There are only two or three volunteers who are taking an active part at the websiteâs life. There is a young woman who had the oncological dieses at her childhood. Now sheâs helping us with the category âHaemotologyâ. There is also a journalistâŚ
- How do you involve the volunteers? Do you have a big team?
Unfortunately, we wish to involve more. We donât have a team yet. Some readers after publication an article at one of Zaporoshyeâs newspaper phoned us and offered their help. There are a lot of ways you can be the volunteer.
- Such categories as âOncologyâ and âHaematologyâ are new at your website. How did they appear?
- Vitja had a very serious illness lymphogranulomatosis a year ago. It was a shock for us. Now he feels well after a yearâs course of the treatment. Last spring we spent two or three months in Kiev. First part of this period I spent there, second â my wife. It was soul-searching after what we had seen. I left my work when Iâve realized that there are a lot of problems. I went to the haematology section after my trip to Kiev. Iâve been talking to the parents, to the doctors and saw everything by myself. It was impossible to stay aside anymore. Now these two categories are equal at our website.
- There is also one new category âWorld without orphanagesâ. Youâre publishing childrenâs biographical particulars with their consent there. Donât you think that this can contradict the confidentiality of the information according to the Ukrainian legislation?
- When I placed childrenâs biographical particulars I havenât thought about it. All we wanted is to help them and thank God we did it. We have found new friends, new sponsors. Now this category has been publishing at our local newspaper â with the childrenâs photos and non-confidential information. We donât have an access to the childrenâs personal files. The orphanagesâ directors donât have the right to give us such information.
- Had these publications helped children to be adopted? Do you remember any examples?
- People wanted to correspond with us, to communicate. They got acquainted with the children, gave them presents. Sometimes children were taken abroad. With the help of our fund they have been to America, Canada. We donât help foreigners at the adoption process. Therefore we have English version of our website we receive a lot of letters from the foreigners who want to adopt children. We are explaining them about our legislation.
Actually this category is an unfinished project. But I was told that 80 per cent of all adoptions at Zaporoshyeâs orphanage the âSunâ have been adopted after reading information at this category. Honestly, Iâm not so good at the Ukrainian legislation. Iâll explain you. There was a kid with oncological dieses. We helped him to have a course of treatment. It was dangerous to take him back to the orphanage, otherwise heâll have a dieses relapse. At the same time, the government did nothing to place him to the foster family. Unfortunately we canât do it neither.
There are many orphans with the Downâs syndrome at the Kalinovka orphanage. But we have no right to help even them. 10 per cent of all sick children die each year, it means five of fifties. There is no reason who will adopt them Ukrainian or foreign family. All we need is a good family. I think this is the most important.
- Albert, whatâs your attitude towards foreign families?
- If the Ukrainian and the foreign families have the equal right to adopt, then I prefer the Ukrainian one. Itâs easier for children to adopt. We have to analyse the family history. We donât have a right to say that foreign family is not good for our children. For example, a boy, who was adopted at the age of grown-up by American family, is helping his orphanage in Ukraine now. The next example, there was an American family who wanted to take a boy but they couldnât. Boyâs mother wasnât deprived her parents right. This boy has been living at the orphanage for eight years and he hasnât got any news from his biological mother.
- Have you ever been to the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sport?
- I have visited their Internet forum. I wrote them my questions. Then this website was closed for some period of time. I saw there many questions, such as how to adopt a kid and how to find information. A new website of the Ministry has a specific navigation and doesnât have the Internet forum.
- Do businessmen and politics support you?
- I donât remember such examples. Usually politics support us during the elections. Sometimes some businessmen support us for a specific aim without advertising. They can see the financial statements at our website.
- Albert, do you have any plans? What are you dreaming of?
- We need support for childrenâs parents who have oncological illness. They have to think only about their kidâs health but not about money needed for medicine and operations. We have got different projects â how to popularize childrenâs adoption â governmentâs programs are not enough. There is lack of information and ads. There is a small group of those who knows what is the foster home and financial support from the government.
We would like to popularize âweekends familyâ. Also we are planning to organize Ukrainian adoption website, probably with volunteers from Kiev.
We would like to help foster families with the help of the League of the foster homes. The situation with the material support is a little bit better during the last years. But spiritual education isâŚ We would like to organize camping trips, show children interesting places. We are also planning educational programs such as computer programs, English lessons, to reveal infants and support them. We have got a lot of ideas. Human and time resources are not enough.
- I know that you are almost the first person who helped the orphanage in Kalinovka, the orphanage that was distressed and not mentioned. How did you find it and what have you seen there?
- This orphanage had never been mentioned thatâs why it attracted our attention. Sponsors didnât support it at all. The situation is like it didnât exist. Parties and different corporations chose cityâs orphanages for their PR-programs. It takes them long way to get there. Even local television doesnât want to go there neither.
- Albert, there are many unknown orphanages without any support. Can you name some of them? Maybe there are âZNââs readers who would like to help? Where can they address?
- Those who wanted to help Zaporoshyeâs orphanages can visit our website. Information, needed help and orphanagesâ addresses you can find at detdom.info. If you want to support them financially then there is lack sport equipment (balls, badminton, tennis), toys, mecanno. Most of the orphanages need playgrounds (sponsors used to place them at the crowded places but not in the orphanages). The situation with food and clothes is better. The most important thing how you can help children is to visit them, get acquainted with them, spent some time and give them your heartâs love and, if you are absolutely sure, take a kid to your family forever.
Itâs not a big problem to find orphanagesâ addresses if you want to.
Alla Kotlyar, "Zerkalo nedeli", Kiev
July 20, 2007