When Russia invaded Ukraine and started an unprovoked war in February of this year, a Boys Town New England youth overheard chatter from classmates about the conflict and realized they did not know much about what life is like in the country she used to call home.
This particular Boys Town youth had grown up in an orphanage in Ukraine, until she was adopted at age 11 by a family in the United States. She later came to Boys Town for more healing and hope.
After overhearing her classmates' conversations, the youth felt compelled to talk with her school principal about the other students lack of knowledge about what life is really like for the Ukrainian people, and that she wanted to do something to help her classmates gain perspective on the conditions in Ukraine and the horrific impact the war was having on citizens and cities throughout the country.
At her principal's suggestion, the youth made her senior project about what life was like growing up in a Ukrainian orphanage. Additionally, she started her own fundraising campaign and collected funds to donate to an orphanage in her home country.
On a recent afternoon, Boys Town New England staff had the pleasure of hearing this youth speak. She compared growing up in a Ukrainian orphanage to being orphaned in America, saying, “Being adopted comes with a lot of opportunities in America like having a good education, being able to get a good job and having support like DCYF or homeless shelters if you need them. There are so many ways to improve your life in America. In Ukraine orphanages, you do not really have any opportunities unless you get adopted. Many kids who age out of orphanages end up homeless, addicted to drugs, living in sewers or living on the streets and doing the best they can to survive."
She added, “We got toothbrushes from donors and had to use them for a couple of years until someone donated more. Sometimes we didn't have toothbrushes so we had to just use our fingers to brush our teeth. We didn't have enough food so we would eat food from the trash or we would make bets or deals for leftovers. These conversations would go something like, 'I will make your bed for the whole month if you give me the apple core or your chewed gum.'"
Despite her tough start in life, this young person is really happy she went through all of what she went through in Ukraine because it makes her so grateful for all the things she currently has in her life.
Now, she wants to provide change and help to orphans in Ukraine by giving them some of the support she wishes she had had, and she encourages others to do the same, saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world even if it's small; to these kids it is something big."