Babushkas and community volunteers help mentor young teenage mothers.
While growing up in a Russian orphanage or internat, a child has very little contact with the outside world or with positive role models who might help them develop their capacity to achieve and succeed. Most of the children and young adults currently enrolled in the MiraMed social adaptation programs for orphans lack an adequate support system to promote healthy behaviors and good decision-making.

Too often, orphanage children are labeled as under-achievers and are set up to fail. Instead of having the opportunity to continue their education, most wind up at technical schools that they have no interest in. For the boys, it's the army and then back adrift in their 20's with no experience and little understanding of their potential. For the girls, it's usually meaningless employment, often unwanted pregnancy, prostitution and a life unfulfilled.

Babushkas make pancakes for the children at the young mother's center.
MiraMed began its mentoring program in Moscow by focusing on children 10-16 still living in orphanages. This is a crucial period when a caring adult mentor can make an enormous difference in helping the child make more effective educational and life choices before they leave their orphanage.

The program involves social workers and psychologists who work together to help shape the design of the program with administrative and other professional staff. Unfortunately, funding for this program ceased after one year and we are looking to re-new it. Currently, our staff social workers provided ongoing mentoring and counseling to some older orphans and we are working with the City of Moscow to ensure that social services departments receive more training to help them be more effective.

Recruiting adults to mentor orphans in Russia is very difficult. Russia does not have the kind of volunteerism tradition that the US and many Western countries have.

To help our Young Single Mothers program, we have been very successful in recruiting "babushkas," grandmothers who are on pension and enjoy being with young mothers and their babies to help share what they have learned.