The mid-1990s saw an unprecedented increase in the number of homeless children on the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine. Children in need of basic care were everywhere, sheltering in train stations, underground passages, and in the basements and attics of residential building. Visually, the impact was greater than that following the end of the Second World War.
‘Only he who does not wish to do anything thinks “it is impossible to help them all”’.
More than 20 years later, Father’s House has become an integrated system of projects and programs that strives for a solution to the complex system of social problems that exists in Ukraine. As we have grown, adapted and developed, our experience has become the foundation for social reform in Ukrainian legislation. Father’s House holds itself accountable for solving some of society’s biggest challenges, and for acting with solicitude and love to provide for those in need. This is our journey.
Father’s House began with a small act of kindness. Dr Roman Korniiko witnessed the hardships and injustices suffered by disadvantaged children and began to take action. He and a group of like-minded volunteers began to organize day-care centres, canteens and hygiene stations, places where children living on the streets could come to bathe, have their hair cut, their injuries treated, and their clothes and shoes washed or replaced. Seeing that this was not enough, Roman decided that these children needed a place to come in the evenings, to eat, wash and sleep - a place where there would be grownups waiting for them. Beginning with his own home, Roman rented several apartments around Kyiv to serve this purpose, including a kindergarten on the Left Bank.
Roman’s group of volunteers grew into an organized team dedicated to ending child homelessness. During this time, around 2 300 children were helped off of the streets and provided with basic care. This was the beginning of Father’s House.
Project ‘Treasure Island’ was established. A rehabilitative summer camp was set up to provide day-care for homeless children, and today continues to serve orphans and children deprived of care, as well as children from families with difficult living conditions. Between 1998 and 2017, ‘Treasure Island’ provided rehabilitative care for 1 235 children.
Father’s House became a registered International Charitable Foundation (ICF). With the help of various sponsors, a house was purchased in the village of Petrivske, Kyiv-Svyatoshinsky district, and became known as Otchiy Dim House.
The Centre for Child Social Welfare was legally registered and opened at Otchiy Dim House, and children began to enter their new home. The Centre became recognised by representatives of the Council of Europe as the best children’s home in Eastern Europe.
Between 2001 and 2011, 244 children passed through the Centre. 51 children were adopted, 51 returned to their biological families, 19 were taken into guardianship, and 16 were transferred to other institutions. The remainder were able to leave the institution and begin an independent life with continued support from the Father’s House team.
2002 marked the year of the first child adopted from Father’s House. The Centre for Social Child Welfare at Otchiy Dim House was recognised as the best children’s home in Ukraine, and construction began on a second house for social work with children in family conditions.
The Father’s House team sought to share their experience by opening a Training Centre for project leaders and carers country-wide. As a result, 58 new participants were trained, and 28 children’s centres opened in various regions of Ukraine. This project culminated in the opening of the International Centre for Development and Leadership in 2007, which today exists as an independent organization and is a leading body in the training of social workers in the country.
The first ‘graduates’ of Father’s House left for adulthood and an independent life, with continuing support from the team. My Family, a Family Education Centre, was opened at Otchiy Dim House. Between 2003 and 2014, 122 children were raised in the Family Education Centre, of which 61 were adopted, 15 taken into guardianship, 6 placed with foster families, 6 returned to their biological parents, and 34 remained until their departure into adult life. From May 2014 to January 2016, the Family Education Centre played host to internally displaced persons of Ukraine.
Father’s House launched its new program, ‘Nadiia Piligrima’, the program of recovery and rest. The program began with a rest house, built in the village of Stormovka in Saky district, Crimea, and a summer camp in the city of Kerch in Crimea. Between 2006 and 2014, more than 2000 children were welcomed and found refuge in the summer camp, before it was unfortunately closed due to the annexation of Crimea by Russian forces. The ‘Nadiia Piligrima’ program continues to operate to this day.
Work on the New Family project began. The project provides free counselling and support to families in the process of adoption. So far, support has been provided to several thousand families, as well as 324 children. The project was expanded in 2015 to include the Big Heart Club, a place of support for adoptive parents, caregivers and parent educators. Currently, 24 families and 119 children are involved in the project.
The International Centre for Development and Leadership(ICDL) was officially registered. The project has since grown into an independent international organization and is today a leading body for the training and retraining of social workers in Ukraine.
The project Great Homeland was launched with the aim of providing continued support to graduates of Father’s House. The project has maintained a supportive relationship with 79 graduates, with 5 graduates continuing to work in the various programs of the organization .
The Rehabilitation Centre for children and youth with disabilities was launched, providing additional care to those in need of more. The program has since grown into the independent International Charitable organization Messenger of Peace.
The Father’s House vision of a Ukraine without orphans became the independent all-Ukrainian public organization ‘Alliance Ukraine without Orphans’, uniting 106 public and charitable organizations campaigning and working for the protection of orphaned children. The Alliance formed the foundation for the launch of the international movement World Without Orphans (WWO), a co-mission for children at risk around the world. Built on the experience of Father’s House in Ukraine, WWO continues to raise awareness and unite leaders in support of orphaned children in 32 countries around the world.
Work began on Project Bethel in Vatutino, Cherkasy region. The project offers social assistance and protection to those in need and is formed of 3 programs: Source of Love, a charity care-home for the elderly, the Centre for Maternal and Infant Care, and the Centre for Social Adaptation for Youth with Disabilities Step to Self. By the end of 2016, Project Bethel had reached 51 elderly people, 15 mothers and 24 children, while 14 young people were living and receiving assistance in the Step to Self children’s home. Since 2016, Project Bethel has been operating as an independent charitable organisation.
Father’s House entered into cooperation with the Kyiv Regional State Administration Department of Child Services, and secured state funding for the Centre for Social Welfare of the Child. The Centre, it’s values, team and programs, became the basis for the Kyiv Oblast Centre for Socio-psychological Rehabilitation of the Child, which was founded in 2012 at Otchiy Dim House and remains operational to this day.
Ambassadors of Father’s House was launched, a network of 72 children of Father’s House who were adopted in various countries. 25 graduates of Father’s House continue to act as ambassadors and are dedicated to working with orphaned children and adoptive parents.
Father’s House began responding to the needs of internally displaced persons from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Between May 2014 and December 2016, 180 children and 78 adults received help at Otchiy Dim House under the Program for Support of Settlers from Eastern Ukraine.
The Mother and Child Together Centre opened in the village of Svyatopetrovsky, Kyiv region. The centre has supported 18 mothers and 16 children, with 6 mothers and 17 children currently being housed. The youth centre Step to Independence was opened and has offered support and guidance to 16 young people who grew up as orphans or were deprived of parental care.
It became apparent that children deprived of parental care were in urgent need of additional education support in order to keep up with their peers and unlock their full academic potential. Father’s House created the Education Project for the Pedagogical Rehabilitation of Children at Otchiy Dim House, which aims to help disadvantaged children achieve the level of education expected of their age group.
Father’s House was delighted to announce the opening of its Youth Club, which brings together teenagers aged 14-18 from various projects to participate in seminars, training, volunteering and other leisure activities.
For their work over the years, the Father’s House team have received the following recognitions from government, religious and public service organisations:
Help a parentless child, restore a generation and unlock the future.