Depending on which “official statistics” you believe, there are between 70,000 – 100,000 orphans in Ukraine living in about 750 institutions. This is a huge number. The Ukrainian government is doing its best to reduce it and is in the process of developing a foster care system.
But life is not about numbers; rather the children behind those numbers. Children who need our help. Children like Andrei.
Who is Andrei?
Andrei is a skinny, little red-headed boy with freckles, who looks like he’s about 8-9 years old. He’s cute, friendly, funny and talkative.
You can usually find him playing games on his tablet or watching YouTube videos. Hearing that, you might think he’s not very active. Well… actually, his favorite video channels are all about acrobatic tricks and gymnastics. Andrei spends hours mastering different stunts and then surprises his friends and teachers with amazing performances.
What makes Andrei even more special?
Andrei is an orphan and he’s actually 15 years old. He’s got an unusual health issue — he won’t grow.
Andrei is already a teenager, but he doesn’t look like a 9th grader. It’s extremely difficult for him to communicate with kids his own age. If you saw him for the first time, you would never believe he’s in high school.
Oh, you are looking for “the American”?
Orphans like Andrei are often shuttled from one institution to another. When we arrived to visit Andrei in his new orphanage, it took us some time to find him. We were asking where we could find a little red-headed boy. Then someone said: “Oh, you mean “the American”… There he is.”
We saw Andrei sitting in the corridor crowded with kids. He was playing with his phone as usual. Then he raised his head, saw us and ran in our direction. So much excitement, hugs, and kind words: “I am so happy you arrived! I missed you so much!”
Why is he called “the American”?
Something special happened to Andrei this past summer — he visited the USA. The purpose of the journey was very specific — so that doctors could figure out why Andrei won’t grow.
Andrei is always excited to talk about this trip. He told us he was hosted by the amazing Smith family, full of love and joy and was treated like a king! He visited Cyndee and Darrell, who cooked his favorite foods and he swam in the pool all day long! The water in the pool was warmed up especially for him since Andrei gets cold easily. Then Andrei whispered: “I didn’t tell anyone, but the next day I actually caught a cold.” “But why didn’t you tell?” — we asked. “This family was so nice to me; I didn’t want to upset them.”
Andrei doesn’t grow because he needs to be loved.
Andrei had a thorough medical check-up while he was in the USA and saw many specialists to determine the reason for his stunted growth. The doctors’ final conclusion struck everyone. This is not something you expect to hear from a doctor: “this boy doesn’t grow, because he’s never been loved.”
The doctors are sure that the roots of the problem are of a psychological nature. This abandoned boy needs to feel the love and security of a real family of his own. When he does, there is time for puberty to kick in, and Andrei can actually grow and start to look like a teenager.
Time is running out for Andrei to find a forever family.
Six months from now, Andrei will have graduated 9th grade and he will age-out of the orphanage system. Soon, it will be too late for him to be adopted. Since this past summer, our team has been working tirelessly to care for Andrei by visiting him in the orphanage, providing for his physical needs, and searching for a Ukrainian family to adopt him. (All of our efforts to find an American adoption family have failed.)
We may have found a family for Andrei in Ukraine!
Mountains of paperwork are still underway, but a loving family has come forth to host Andrei for the upcoming Christmas holidays. Long-time Hope Now friends are tackling the long list of tedious documents that need to be registered and approved, and home visits are underway. Please pray with us, that Andrei will be able to spend Christmas holidays with this family and that God will place this child within this family forever.
How can you help?
Registering documents, making visits to the orphanage, and supporting our volunteer team all costs money. Please pray for our efforts in helping Andrei find his forever family. If you feel led to help financially, please visit our Donate Page and click on “Volunteer Support”. God bless you!
Eighth grade can be tough – especially if you’re a lanky 17-year-old, who can’t really read or write. Coming from a broken home of alcoholics, violence and poverty, Vlad arrived at the orphanage not ready to learn, but to survive.