Most adults can look back and fondly recollect an experience, person or even a gift that positively influenced our lives. Maybe it was your parents’ sacrifice that enabled you to receive an excellent education; perhaps it was a coach who encouraged you to never give up; maybe it was a particularly hard time in your life that led you to depend on God; or possibly it was a gift from a complete stranger that set you on the path to where you are today. However, most orphans in Ukraine do not find themselves in positive circumstances or surrounded by supportive people. Because of the isolation and social rejection that many Ukrainian orphans face, they are not privy to the social resources and networking opportunities that many of us have had.
As we discussed in our last blog, “The Plight of Orphan Graduates,” orphans face a bleak future when ‘aging out’ of the orphanage at age 15-16. Why? The main reason is due to the lack of opportunity for higher education. In Ukraine, children are only legally required to complete school through grade 9. Of course, most students who are not orphans in Ukraine continue attending school through grades 10 and 11 in order to complete their high school education. In fact, completion of high school is an indisputable fact of life for most Ukrainian teens, as it is in the USA. Once Ukrainian students complete grade 11 at an accredited high school, they receive a HS diploma which enables them to gain entrance to a college or university. Most orphanages in Ukraine, however, cannot offer grades 10 and 11 to their students. Therefore, many orphans only complete the minimum required amount of schooling and end up leaving the orphanage with a mediocre certificate, giving them very few options for continued education. Unfortunately, if orphans wish to continue onto higher education with this certificate, they will only be accepted to second-rate trade schools.
As Hope Now has been building solid relationships with orphan graduates over the past several years, we have continually run into this frustrating barrier that orphans are faced with. We’ve seen the lack of educational opportunities these teenagers are given once they leave the orphanage. During this same time period, Hope Now also started partnering with a highly respected accredited Christian high school in Cherkasy, called Sophia School. Our director, Cyndee Knight, has developed trusting relationships with the Principal, Administration and staff of the school. Together, many of the Sophia School teachers and students have volunteered with Hope Now and together we have organized camps and have aided needy families in the orphanage community. You may remember how our friendship was launched albeit, unwittingly.
Through this connection with Sophia School, Cyndee began formulating her dream of the Elevate Scholarship. This scholarship program enables orphan graduates to complete their high school education (grades 10 and 11) at Sophia School. Not only does this award allow orphan graduates to complete their high school education, it also allows them to earn a HS diploma from an accredited high school whereby offering endless possibilities for gaining entrance to a college or university in the future. On top of that, students studying for two years at a Christian school, will hear the good news of the gospel every day while hopefully forming their own Biblical worldview. Eventually, as plans for this scholarship began to develop, a big question still lingered - where would the scholarship students live while attending Sophia School in Cherkasy? Amazingly, multiple teachers from Sophia School offered to host the scholarship students, providing a nurturing, Christian household for these teenagers.
Over the last six months, God made Cyndee’s dreams for this scholarship a reality, and all the logistics fell into place. In September, Hope Now’s first two Elevate Scholarship recipients, Alina and Ira, graduates of Shpola Orphanage, enrolled in grade 10 at Sophia School. It is exciting to see how God is already using this scholarship program not only to change the lives of the recipients, but also the lives of all those involved.
Last week, Natalia Yevtushenko, Principal of Sophia School wrote this about Alina and Ira:
“Alina and Ira feel good - they share and trust all their problems and reflections with Julia and me. Carefully doing tasks, their language teacher also said that their class works well. Girls shared their spiritual experiences and the way the Lord helps them, and they actively participate in the Christian ethics class… I think what God has done through you for them will completely change their lives. I did not even think that modern children could be so fearful and uncertain. Glory to God that He has seen them, and you have decided to obey God! I believe that they will have a completely different future!”
We praise God for bringing this scholarship program to fruition this school year, and we look forward to seeing how it will change the lives of orphans in the years to come. As the end of 2018 draws closer, we will seek out and evaluate next year’s Elevate Scholarship recipients. There are many orphans nearing graduation who would be excellent candidates, but we need continued funding in order to offer this scholarship next year and for years to come. The annual fee for each scholarship is $3,500. Would you consider giving to this scholarship - being an Elevator and raising orphan graduates into a new future of hope? If God is leading you to give, please click this link to donate and select the box “Elevate Scholarship.”
We pray that more and more orphans in Ukraine will look back on their lives in the years to come and point to the Elevate Scholarship and donors like you as factors that positively changed their lives forever.