A «Magic Room»
«Kids who grow up in orphanages are not familiar even with basic household chores like cooking. Most girls have no idea about contraception and get pregnant within six months of graduation,» says Anastasia Marentsova, a volunteer at the Udomlya Orphanage. «They typically burn through their accumulated welfare payments within 12 months: orphanage alumni have no concept of thrift, quickly wasting their money on whims and getting into debt.»
Anastasia and her colleagues decided to teach the kids to deal with some essential things they would face as adults. After talking to the management (Anastasia is working at Kaspersky Lab’s Moscow HQ) and getting them to commit to providing financial resources, the volunteers set to work. Two years after Kaspersky Lab committed to sponsoring the Udomlya Orphanage, the institution has a special social adaptation room, which has helped about a dozen orphanage alumni to prepare for their adult life.
In fact, this is more of an apartment on the orphanage’s premises than a room, complete with a living room, a kitchen, a shower and bathroom and separate bedrooms for girls and boys. Orphanage residents are placed in the «social adaptation room» about six months before graduation, receiving a cash allowance every week. The teens learn to budget their expenses, interact with one another, resolve problems as they arise, buy groceries and cook their own meals.
In addition to organizing the social adaptation room, Kaspersky Lab used these two years to take care of many other essential things: renovating classrooms and dorm rooms, setting up and providing equipment for a computer class and organizing an on-site psychologist’s office. A playground emerged in the orphanage’s schoolyard, with a skating rink in the winter and a soccer pitch in the summer, where kids come to play from the whole district, which also helps orphanage kids to become socialized.
«Last year, eight kids were graduating from the orphanage. The first group of children to use the social adaptation room settled down quite nicely at the students’ residences of the colleges and schools they enrolled in,» Anna Burundukova says. «We even had a unique case. A girl was transferred to Udomlya from another orphanage, where she was seen as a problem child, but has undergone a real transformation at Udomlya. After graduation, the girl became a model resident at a college dormitory which did not want to take her at first. The college has no complaints against her or the orphanage.»