January 28, 2012
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№ 1 (January 2012)

Editor's Letter

Christmas is for Children and the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund (ROOF) Needs You!



Pat Davis Szymczak

   It’s the Holidays again and that means it’s time to send to your business associates bottles of expensive whiskey, candy, flowers and (in Russia) figurines sculpted in the form of the Chinese New Year animal. (This year it’s the Water Dragon, as depicted on our cover.)

   But with economies still in crisis and an uncertain 2012 ahead, I’d like to suggest something different – Why not make a charity donation in the name of the person to whom you want to send a gift? For the 2012 holidays, I’m recommending that you make a donation to ROOF – the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund (www.roofnet.org).

   The whiskey is gone in a single party. And besides, the guy to whom you sent it can buy the stuff easily. But how much is it worth to you to create a better future for the community in which you live?

   Russia’s orphan problem is a lot bigger than just the State budget money  that runs homes for children without parents or children whose homes are so abusive that institutional care becomes the preferred choice. The State takes care of the basics but the State can’t do everything.

   And if you live in society – it really is everyone’s problem. There are 150,000 children in Russian orphanages today and of those, 30,000 receive no education and very little stimulation because they have been labeled “unteachable” or “weak minded.” I invite you to watch this simple youtube video about ROOF’s work with the children of Belksoye-Ustye Psycho-neurological Orphanage, which explains things far better than I can describe in the written word.

   Please note that if you scan with your smart phone, the QR (Quick Response) Bar Code shown with the link you can play the video directly on your smart phone – right off the printed page! youtu.be/nGK-xlLRaIc

   The lucky ones leave institutional care in their late teens without the skills to live on their own, or the education they need to be productive in the 21st Century job market. So whose problem is it?

   It is everyone’s problem. The quality of the labor force suffers and that’s not good for business. Unable to make a living and without a healthy family support network, “internat” (the name applied in Russian to the orphanage) graduates often turn to crime and many even commit suicide. Again, that’s not good for business because it is not good for the community in which businesses operate.
In the late 1990s, ROOF pioneered in the development of night-school curricula in Moscow, whereby young adult graduates of the Russian orphanage system could finish high school and even study for State exams to enter college or university. ROOF was among the first orphan charities to initiate a student internship program with local Russian businesses. One student whom I personally remember from that period ended up going to law school after working as a courier for an international law firm in central Moscow.

   And over the last 12 years, ROOF has spun off three organizations – that now stand independently – and continue this work in different parts of Moscow and the Pskov region.  ROOF has more and more focused its attention on education of the mentally handicapped and on advocacy to get children of normal intelligence out of the institution when they have been erroneously diagnosed as mentally disabled and then “warehoused” without hope of a future.

   And just as ROOF pioneered student internships for orphans in the 1990s, today it is trying-on business initiatives such as the creation of micro-finance projects to encourage young people who have left the orphanage system to start and run their own small businesses.

   There are many ways to support the work of ROOF this holiday season. One option cost less than 1,000 rubles ($25) and you can sign-up easily over the Internet. ROOF is currently campaigning to find 200 people who are willing to pledge $25 per month to support ROOF’s monthly operational budget. Find out more at  www.roofnet.org. Click your language preference at the far right if you prefer to read in Russian. And if you have a smart phone, click the QR Bar Code here to go directly to the ROOF website on your phone.

   If you are interested in volunteering or in discussing a large donation, or a contribution earmarked for a particular project, I’d ask you to contact the Chairman of ROOF’s Board of Directors, Georgia Williams, at [email protected] or you can call ROOF’s Moscow office at (495) 649 4809.
And if there are any potential donors who are tax resident in either the UK or the United States reading this, I should note that ROOF is registered with the UK Charities Commission, and in the U.S. it has 501©3 tax deductible status. Lastly, I’d like to mention the people behind the scenes at ROOF, several of them personal friends of mine and all people of the highest quality, with real heart for their work.  

Merry Christmas!

The Board of the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund
Georgia J. Williams, volunteer Chairman 
 l  Dr. Daria Kirjanov-Mueller, volunteer President (Adjunct Faculty, Dept. of Modern Languages at the University of New Haven) 
 l  Karen Jansson, volunteer Treasurer – USA 
 l  Rosalind Williams, volunteer Treasurer – international (School Teacher – retired) 
 l  Arne Alsin, Board Member (Financial Advisor, Alsin Capital – adoptive parent) 
 l  Dr. Lucy Kostyanovsky, Board Member (History Department, King’s College, London, UK – adoptive parent) 
 l  Mother Nectaria McLees, Board Member (Orthodox monastic, Editor of Road to Emmaus Journal of Orthodox Faith and Culture) 
 l  Dr. Timothy Patitsas, Board Member (Assistant Professor of Ethics at Hellenic College Holy Cross) 
 l  Fr. Stephen Platt, Board Member (Priest of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Oxford, UK) 
 l  Dr. Peter Schadler, Board Member (Visiting scholar at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology) 
 l  Dr. Nina Gorky Shapiro, Board Member (Slavic Bibliographer, Princeton University - retired).

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