Yuri's Story...

Yuri was born to a mother who didn’t want him, named by the hospital staff where he was born, and diagnosed as “oligophrenic” (weak-minded) at age 4, despite the fact that his original “natural” capabilities remain shrouded in mystery, since the overworked staff of the baby house where he spent his first three years of his life had absolutely no time to focus on his early development.

Now Yuri is 23. The fact that he was diagnosed with “oligophrenia v stadii debilnosti” ("light mental retardation") at age 4 ensured that he was transferred not to an orphanage under the Ministry of Education, but to a psycho-neurological internat. The typical course of life for someone like Yuri includes very little in the way of stimulation and no education. Having been deemed “unteachable” in childhood, Yuri would have had no chance whatsoever of employment.  At 18, he would have been transferred to an adult psycho-neurological institution where the life expectancy is far below the national norm. But this is not Yuri’s story.

Yuri was blessed to grow up in an orphanage with ROOF programs. Since the age of 12 he has enjoyed regular developmental classes with a range of teachers in different subjects and traditional crafts. He has learned to read and write and has all the necessary basic maths skills the average adult needs. He has participated each year in ROOF’s month-long international summer camp; because of this, he also understands more English than your average graduate of a psycho-neurological orphanage (!), but more importantly he has friends from Moscow, and even from abroad. These friends often come back to visit him or write to see how he is getting on. Rather than daily enduring the tedium of the adult institution, Yuri has a job at the local bakery and now lives with a small group of young adults as a participant in ROOF’s “social hotel” program. His house parents have worked long and hard over the last three years to secure housing for Yuri in his own name, so that when he is ready to live more independently he will have a place to call his own, though ROOF staff and volunteers will always be close at hand.

Though many childhoods across the Russian Federation begin like Yuri’s, very few of these are given the opportunity to blossom. The Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund (ROOF) was founded in 1997 to serve those left behind in institutions. Please help us reach more of Russia’s Forgotten Children, because for them, it’s literally a matter of life or death.