by Alexander Gezalov, an orphanage graduate
I was compelled to write this article on the one person's request, who sincerely wanted to help an orphan alumna but didn't know how she could do that. She was helping her at that time, from a humane point of view - in the form of aid packages and money, but was that the most necessary kind of help she was giving that girl? Was it right? Absolutely not, I say, it is necessary to have knowledge and methods to really start helping a child from an orphanage to live using her own head.
After a new orphanage graduate find themselves in a "new environment", which is most often vocational school, they begin to get used to a new setting and discover the surroundings. Usually it's their dormitory and the classrooms where they learn what is what in this world. But it's a dangerous sign when the [psychological] changes typical for children of their age are not observed in these children, because this threats their further adaptation to life. However, after arriving to a new place of subsistence, they relax. The question is not in the monotonous orphanage life ruled by daily schedule; it's that the similar framework of vocational school is suppressing plans for the future.
An orphan does not feel the risks and the threat of losing firm ground, and vocational school contributes to that. Orphans are handled like precious jewelry, they have more social benefits than anybody else. Sometimes their unemployment allowance is unjustifiable, because after six months of living off it they don't want to work at all. You get used to getting your monthly 7500 rubles (US$280 in 2008). It is sufficient for an orphan child to live in these conditions: the food, clothing, money allowance are provided. Very often they take a shower and change clothes once a week, just like they used to do in an orphanage on command. The children simply do not fear the possibility of running out of money and not having food to eat. They begin to buy expensive things, which they either barter for some kind of trash or simply lose. An orphanage child possesses a number of qualities not useful to a normal person at all. For example, it's the ability to spend prolonged periods of time in static environment, or be involved in humdrum and monotonous communication. This is the kind of orphanage experience which prevails in them. Also, being deprived of many things in life, orphanage children have unmotivated high living standards (e.g. music player is a must-have, etc.), because this wish is stronger than the understanding that goods do not grow on trees.
Orphanage graduates have something which they carry on throughout their entire life, the so-called "orphan's eyes". Very often they misuse their position to present themselves as the situation demands. What really strikes the eye is the way orphanage children communicate, whereas inside orphanage or upon graduation. They don't control their emotions, they can spit out whatever they think about a person or a situation in a direct and rude way. This becomes a major obstacle in dealing with the opposite sex as well as with prospective employers. Their level of responsibility is immensely low, they only feel responsibility before their orphanage mates, not more than that. Their attitude to things is varied; for example, they are unpretentious towards clothes they wear, because in an orphanage they wore whatever was given or donated. They have very well developed "second hand" thinking. They don't have any short- or long-term goals, their closest targets are: breakfast, lunch, dinner, nap. This shallow perception of life is quite comfortable and natural for them. Orphaned children are very affectionate, yet obtrusive and inexperienced in the complexity of relations between grown-up people. As soon as their ignorance is discovered, they are often used as a tool to commit a crime. Also these children look for a mentor, reminding them (if only partially) a familiar orphanage teacher, the "prompting type", and it becomes a vicious circle. Once this relation begins, it becomes a contact of two worlds, one of which, in the course of time, begins to provide goods for the orphan, which is the order of things customary inside an orphanage. People who come across an orphaned child sincerely try to save him from the circumstances and the situation he is in. This promotes the motto "enjoy life to the full", which children once accepted and practiced in an orphanage. This is the point where two worlds clash. The child accustomed to care begins to consume, and later on sets his personal goals and assigns tasks for grown-ups to fulfill them. And a grown-up begins to fall for this trick. In case the trick is discovered and grown-up senses that something is wrong, a child begins to blackmail his caregiver, even in public. He can sabotage their relations and demand their "due allowance". Such cases happen regularly.
A grown-up whom the child identifies with the Santa's bag, sympathizes with the child and begins to care for him, thus promoting his further inactivity and meaninglessness of life. He patronizes him, providing clothing, taking him out to the movies, boutique shops, and not giving a chance to stop and think about tomorrow. Not many graduates find common ground with their mates, because they immediately show their dependency, which is not welcome in current economic conditions. And not to mention that they are not that attractive without musical, sports or some kind of educational background, which reduces their chances to find a partner.
It is common for alumnae to marry graduates of the same orphanage, which provides temporary comfort. Their working practices do not deserve to be mentioned, as they are non-existent; the skills they have and which orphanage headmasters brag about is a small set of skills with limited application, e.g. making of bed, repairing holes in socks, cleaning of teeth... that's about it. This is because being on social security a child receives these goods without taking much effort.
What is to be done?
It is not even in the necessity of explaining how hard life really is, and that they must cope on their own. When you talk to an orphan, you must remember that road to hell is paved with good intentions. Everything that connects you to a child must be well planned strategically and tactically; it's for the child's own good. You must not give him a reason to think of you as a "kind uncle with a pile of cash". When talking to them and doing things together you must embed into them that such and such actions will lead to that result, and then you set goals and ways to fulfill them. A child needs to be more independent, each action and its result must be explained. Sometimes it's necessary to step aside and let him be completely independent. Whether it's making of tea, washing and ironing of clothes, or shopping planning, reason must be observed in everything. When a day or an event is planned, for example, the plans must be backed up by what a child has in his wallet, and not yours. Otherwise he'll order a million pizzas.
Particular educational components that we need to focus on are the ones that were totally exterminated by years of orphanage life. A child learns the things necessary for transferring to vocational school, any of which is filled to the top with orphanage spirit. It is also necessary to nurture observing skills within a child and not what he received being in orphanage, i.e. watching 24/7 how life passes them by. Teach them to see the colors of life, the nature, communication between people of both different ages and opposite sex. This is very important. This is just a beginning of a conversation that will definitely continue in future articles. It's important to realize that kindness must be well measured out; it is only the child who can overcome all the hardship and make his way in life.
Orphanage stamp should not be burned into the soul of a child from a children's home.
Guard them from your unnecessary care.