By Stefan J. Bos
Anita Herczegh, the wife of Hungarian President János Áder, and Ukrainian First Lady Marina Poroshenko came to the St. Michael Center in Rativci with a mission: They want to ensure that orphans in what is Ukraine's Transcarpathia region can grow up in family homes at a time when Ukraine faces war and hardship.
Both first ladies greeted participants in a charity run that left Hungary's capital Budapest on June 4 to raise money for the Center in Rativci.
The St. Michael Centre is raising 35 children in family homes within the facility which was commissioned by the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Munkachevo in 2005.
The Hungarian government supports the construction of the family houses and the rehabilitation center with some 70 million forints (218,000 euro). And, First Lady Herczegh said her husband's office would give thousands more for the purchase of equipment.
It comes amid concerns among Christian aid workers about the plight of orphans. They estimate that about 750 institutions are housing at least some 106,000 children in Ukraine, many of whom abused or abandoned by their parents and placed in the care of others.
Many also became orphans because of an ongoing war between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine where the conflict has killed more than 10,000 people.
Additionally, Christian aid workers say that every three days an orphan with a disability dies, usually, because they don’t get the necessary medical attention.
Oksana Savka is among those hoping to change that. She is a Christian who gives oversight and direction to prepare and motivate Christian families to foster and adopt orphans in Ukraine. "There are [more than] 100,000 orphans in our country," said Savka, who is supported by the European Christian Mission (ECM) group.
"State-run orphanages are divided by age which means that siblings are separated. The statics say that 70 percent of them end up in crime, 50 percent of girls become prostitutes, and 30 percent of these children commit suicide," she noted.
"I believe this is our responsibility as Christian to change these statistics, " added Savka, who helped to place 500 children in "130 Christian homes".
But there is a long way to go. In Ukraine, an orphanage, known as an Internat, is often still a mixed boarding school for orphans and children from families living in poverty. Critics say it is often a catch-all for children of every background and need.
Christian aid workers hope that more individual attention and Christian love will change attitudes in this former Soviet nation.