In September, several board members and friends of
the KidsFirst Foundation took a mission trip to
Russia. The experience was inspiring and rewarding.
Here is a brief account of the trip, and what was
We started our work at a halfway house for older
orphans in Moscow. During this visit, we met Mother
Elizabeth, six teenage girls currently living in her care
and several other young adults that have benefited
from living in the facility in recent years.
The halfway house was clean and warm. But, it was
also cramped and modest. From our visit, it was
clear that Mother Elizabeth works hard to help these
needy teens get access to a good education. But,
they struggle by not having all the tools they need to
succeed. So, we purchased two computers, a computer
monitor and some software that will help the
kids learn English.
We also met an impressive teacher who tutors the kids
and she will play a key role in making sure that the new
technology is put to good use. As we left, smiles filled
the room and it was clear that our gifts will open new
doors of opportunity for these needy teens.
The next day, we travelled to an orphanage in Tver. We
met the orphanage director, toured the facility and
interacted with kids from newborns through age five.
Then, we went outside to see the playground that we
built in 2008 with funds provided by WestPoint
Once outside, we planted two fir trees to acknowledge
our partnership and how it will grow. Then, we played
with the kids on the playground. We also took a banner
over that says "Thank You WestPoint Financial
Group." The kids had fun drawing on the banner and
tracing their hands.
Based on our tour of this orphanage, it was clear that
the kids could benefit from more food and better nourishment.
So we spent $7,500 to purchase critical food
and medical supplies. The orphanage director was
very appreciative and we hope that we can provide
more food and medicine in 2010.
On the following day, we went to one of the orphanages
in Novgorod. The kids in this orphanage were
age one through seven and it was good to see that
these kids were receiving the food and medicine
needed to thrive.
We toured the facility, played with the kids, read to
them and went into a small classroom where a teacher
was going over lessons. During our visit, one little boy
asked if he would be travelling home with us that day.
We had to tell him no, but at least we were able to
spend some time playing games with him. Needless to
say, it was heart breaking not being able to tell him that
we were there to adopt him.
Since part of the Foundation's mission is to give
orphaned kids a place to play, we committed to build
a playground at this orphanage. So, we purchased
equipment from a local manufacturer and also bought
a dryer and a vacuum that the orphanage needed. The
director was very appreciative of our support and we
felt great rewarding kids, who need more to smile
about, with a playground.
Then, we traveled to an orphanage in Borovichi. We
met the orphanage director and toured the facility. The
kids living there were newborns through age four. We
wanted to build a playground for these kids too, so we
made arrangements to purchase several pieces of
equipment that will be installed next spring.
Since the Borovichi orphanage gets brutally cold in
the winter, we also purchased two water heaters to
provide warm bath water for the kids and two radiant
wall heaters to keep rooms warm during the
months ahead. We also purchased shoes and some
exercise saucers/chairs for the kids. Again, it was
smiles all around for the great work your contributions
allow us to do.
The mission trip allowed us to identify needs on the
ground and make various contributions that will help
improve the living conditions for orphaned kids.
Overall, we put more than $27,000 in donations to
work and we also came away with great insights into
how we can do even more going forward.
In closing, we believe that building playgrounds is a
meaningful part of our mission. It was great to see
kids playing and it's clear that these kids simply need
more things to smile about. We also saw how some
facilities need more food and medicine. So, we will
continue to do all that we can to help in this area as
well. And it's clear that access to education is what
older orphans need to succeed. So, we will continue to
provide computers and other tools that can open new
doors to opportunity.
The work we are doing is important. Many of us have
adopted children from the orphanages that we are
helping. But, so many more kids are still left behind
with little hope of every being adopted. Our support
matters to them and we hope more people will be able
to go on our next mission trip so that they can experience
how good it feels to help kids in need.