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Day 3

PictureSaturday, August 19.    As we walked out of the Grand Hotel in Ryazan, Russia this morning the grey skies made us think of winter.   But the day was warm, and the city’s inhabitants were taking advantage of that fact in large numbers.  We enjoyed watching daily life unfold as we rode a Matrooshka from our hotel to the Children’s Hope Chest Ministry center.  A Matrooshka is a van that is half taxi and half bus.  We found one going our way and shared the ride with half a dozen other passengers who were headed in the same direction, but got off at various stops along the way.  

We arrived at the Ministry center and met several members of the staff along with a number of orphan graduates.  We met only a few graduates, possibly because it is late August and many people are on vacations rather than working this week.  In any case, there were several inspiring stories including one  young women who has graduated from a University and started a career designing invitations and business cards, and another who having graduated from a technical school, managed to get accepted to a University in Moscow and will start at school there in September.   As many people know, technical school replaces the last two to three years of high school for many orphans and is often a place they are sent at age 16 when an orphanage doesn’t support their efforts to get into a University.  So, it was particularly great to hear from a student who has lived on her own from age 16 who is going to a University both against the advice of her friends and in spite of expectations to the contrary. 

We also met three young men around age 16 who are currently in trade schools who come to the Ministry center as a place of sanctuary.  They are just beginning the process of preparing themselves for jobs, and their individual living situations are relatively desperate.  They told of living in a dormitory with 8 boys sharing a 12x12 room and 100 people sharing a single kitchen.   With just these brief stories, it is easy to see the need that the ministry center provides including counseling on everything from finances to time management and goal setting.  The center is safe, clean and provides guidance for those orphan grads who ask for it. 

The mission team, the ministry staff, and the grads all participated in a team building activity that focused on communication and leadership.  The exercise was particularly difficult because most of the team doesn’t speak Russian and none of the orphan grads spoke much English.   Nonetheless the joint group completed the exercise successfully and seemed to enjoy the process.  After that, we all walked to a restaurant in Ryazan and the mission team took the grads and staff out to lunch. 

After the trip to the Ministry center, the team took a van ride to the orphanage in Rybnoe.  We arrived at around 4:00 pm and were greeted by a number of kids and the orphanage staff.   We went into the orphanage and unpacked our bags.  At 5:00 pm we had a welcome ceremony where we learned that the theme of the camp would be “the sea”.   We performed some introductions, and not too surprising, we participated in our first dance of the camp.   Finally, we wrapped up the ceremony by singing “We all live in a Yellow Submarine” in both English and Russian.  

After dinner, (Mullet, Rice, and Salad), we met with Oleg, the orphanage psychologist in his office for tea and a conversation that brought us up to date on events here at the orphanage.  Later that evening, some of the less sleepy members of the team (not the writer of today’s blog), stayed up and watched a Russian movie about World War 2.   Tomorrow, we head to some summer camps to see additional orphans, so stay tuned.