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On the Threshold of Independent Life Changing Lives of Orphan Children

Sixteen future orphanage graduates from Grades 8 through 11 from the Berezhany and Novo Selo Ukrainian state-run orphanage boarding schools and the Ternopil orphanage continued to prepare themselves for adult life thanks to the annual program "On the Threshold of Independent Life".

The program is in its sixth year thanks to the volunteers at Orphans Future Foundation, as well as stable financial support from The Global Fund for Children.

Participation in this program enables the children to know real life outside of the orphanage boarding school, get acquainted with new people, and establish close communication with them. The training contributes to development of necessary life skills and abilities, and prepares children for independent adult life in society after they leave residential institutions.

Six times, three days each, from April to May 2018, sixteen future orphanage graduates had the opportunity to come to Ternopil city and completely immerse themselves in an adult's independent life: they compiled a menu of dishes, made purchases of products in local supermarket, cooked breakfast and dinner for themselves, learned to use public transport, got acquainted with new people and studied new places and participated in developing workshops.

The basis for the training sessions was the following six modules of the program: "My communication", "My education and employment", "My strengths of the character", "My relationship", "My financial literacy", "My health". Training sessions were conducted by ten qualified trainers from seven non-governmental organizations of Ternopil and four volunteers were involved to help us to run the program.

Trainers of the classes included Andriy Khrushch from the Caritas-Ternopil Foundation, and Yuri Mamus from the "Success" Christian Learning Center. These trainers conducted the "My Communication" training, which raised the competence of the students in effective interpersonal communication, interaction with other people, and development of skills for conflict resolution.

The "My education and employment" session conducted by trainers Iryna Yaremchuk from the "ATOM" public organization, and Olena Borysiak, a specialist at the Center for Employment at the Ternopil University Economics Department, helped the students understand the importance of choosing the right profession. Emphasis was also placed on learning at school, along with mastering resume and writing skills. These sessions showed how a real "interview" works with a future educational institution and employer, and also helped to develop self-presentation skills.

During the training "My Strengths of Character", students learned more about themselves, their inner world and analyzed their strengths and weaknesses. Different exercises contributed to the formation of positive qualities and confidence in students, and motivated them to find their own internal resourcefulness. Coaches included Iryna Vakalyuk, a psychologist at Orphans Future Foundation, plus Yuri Mamus and Yevgeny Chekushkin from the "Success" Christian Learning Center.

Trainers Iryna Vakalyuk, and Andriy Khrushch, along with Olya Niko conducted the module "My Relationship", which helped develop participants' skills in communication with a person of the opposite sex, safe sexual behavior, responsible the attitude toward fatherhood and understanding of the differences between friendship and love and what to do to make relationships with your beloved person strong and trusting.

During My Financial Literacy classes, students compiled their personal budget, analyzed the main items of expenditure, understood what the main function of "money" is and what can put funds at risk. Also they learned how to plan time, and to how keep a personal financial diary after graduating from the orphanage.

We thank trainers Natalia Orishchak from the "Rich & Happy School of Financial Success, and Volodymyr Buchok from the "Territory of Personal Development" for sharing their time and knowledge.

At the sixth module, My Health, students analyzed the main components of human health and why young people should take care of their health. They also learned about consequences of neglecting their own health, learned how to provide first aid, and analyzed what makes "a plate of healthy food".

We thank trainers Iryna Vakalyuk, Andriy Khrushch and Olya Niko for their professional work at this session.

Children also prepared a menu of everyday meals, estimated food costs, received real money and purchased food at the supermarket, accompanied and guided by Natalia Kotsuba. The orphans learned to cooked their own delicious breakfasts and dinners. Such practical experience for orphanage children is important and necessary since in an adult's life they will have to learn how to properly cook and eat to stay healthy.

Interesting and cognitively challenging workshops and excursions have expanded the horizons of our children, including: a trip to the Center of Science of Ternopil; a trip to a social dormitory and a university dormitory,; getting acquainted with modern IT technologies at the MagneticOne company, and understanding what place it occupies in the labor market; participation in preservation of the "Vidrodzhennya" Park; participation in "Scientific Picnics"; participation in workshops on the basics of sound recording, video editing, Adobe Photoshop, media interviews, and games using musical instruments at MediaLab Ternopil; and career guidance at the "Success" Christian Learning Center.

Special thanks goes out to local Ternopil restaurants for providing lunches during the program's implementation, including: Churchill, Khutir, Ternozavr, Mriya.

Thanks also to the following Ternopil cafes: Two Geese, Autoport, Barbaresco, Shinok, Seventh Heaven, Olesia, and Bratislava.

The program "On the Threshold of Independent Life" has been operating since 2013 with financial support from the Global Fund for Children, and with assistance from the Ternopil Regional State Administration Department of Education and Science.

Thank you to everyone who is involved in the implementation of such an important program for orphan teens living in residential institutions.

Only together can we can really help these children have a better and successful future!

: 28 May 2018

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