Kaspersky Lab’s Position
On Volunteering

Having many employees engaged in social and volunteer projects is a matter of pride for Kaspersky Lab. Our volunteers not only tutor children at the Udomlya Orphanage, but also give blood, participate in charity athletic events, protect the environment, and forge friendships with kids who have survived cancer.

Kaspersky Lab’s Position On Volunteering
 
NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS HAVE RECEIVED ASSISTANCE FROM KASPERSKY LAB
 
VOLUNTEERS WITH KASPERSKY LAB HQ IN MOSCOW, RUSSIA, COLLECTED ONE METRIC TON OF PAPER FOR RECYCLING
 
KL VOLUNTEERS HAVE VISITED UDOMLYA FOUR TIMES IN TWELVE MONTHS
 
KL MOSCOW OFFICE EMPLOYEES HAVE DONATED MORE THAN 90 LITERS OF BLOOD

KL VOLUNTEERS HAVE PARTICIPATED IN CHARITY SPORTS EVENTS: A DANCING MARATHON, A SKI RUN, THREE FOOTBALL CUPS, A VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT, A RUN, AND A CYCLING MARATHON







Becoming Fit
For Adult Life

How Russian Orphanage Alumni Are Trained to Live Independently

Kaspersky Lab’s Position On Volunteering

Only a small fraction of children who lose their parents in Russia can find a new adoptive family. The majority have to grow up in orphanages, known in Russia as children’s homes. The exact statistics are not recorded, but according to some reports, between 15,000 and 30,000 15-16 year-olds graduate from Russian orphanages each year. However, only about one in ten alumni are capable of adjusting to life outside the institution. Even free housing provided by the state cannot help everyone. A lack of common daily life skills, social incompetence, a lack of independence and the orphanage alumni’s habit of getting a free ride in everything quickly causes them to come to grief. Fortunately, there are volunteers out there — people who care — trying to rectify the situation.

In this story we use photos that were taken in Udomlya






Uncertain
future

The typical stories of orphanage alumni are all alike. After graduating from an orphanage, Victoria took a college course to become a secretary. She skipped the mandatory internship and did not get a job through the college’s placement service. She came back to the orphanage to wait for her free apartment from the government. Kate was trained as a seamstress at college, then she met a young man, got pregnant, and had a baby. Nobody in the young family has a job. Their only source of income is child benefits. After graduating from college, Lena met an older man who did not have a job. Now they both are unemployed, burning through Lena’s savings account (orphans accumulate a sizeable amount of money from various welfare payments which they can access when they turn 18).

Anna Burundukova, Principal of the Udomlya Orphanage, situated some 400 kilometers away from Moscow, can tell dozens of stories just like these. A couple of years ago, these stories were heard by volunteers who had decided to do something to help a small local orphanage, so they decided to tackle this problem, at least in one out of the hundreds of Russian orphanages.







Following the horrors of World War I, the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Civil War of 1918 — 1922 and the associated famine, large numbers of children were left without parents or any kind of sustenance or supervision. Orphaned street kids became a mass phenomenon in Soviet Russia. The government found a quick fix for this problem by establishing a network of state orphanages (known in Russian as children’s homes) where street kids could live until they grew up, getting meals, clothes, and elementary education. The tradition of children’s homes continues to this day. Citizens of present-day Russia rarely adopt orphans, especially those with medical conditions and disabilities, or those with special needs (nearly half of all orphanage kids have some kind of a severe medical condition or a development issue). The current laws make it nearly impossible for foreign nationals to adopt Russian orphans. The Russian Presidential Ombudsman for Children’s Rights said in 2015 that the Russian government operated 819 orphanages, providing lodging, education and sustenance to 72,000 children.







The town of Udomlya is in the Tver Region, about 400 kilometers away from Moscow and right next to the Kalinin Nuclear Power Plant. Kaspersky Lab employees have decided to help the orphanage kids there to prepare for independent life as adults.







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.»

Kaspersky Lab set up a playground on the orphanage’s premises. It is converted to a skating rink in wintertime, becoming a soccer pitch in the summer, drawing kids from across the district, which also helps orphanage kids to get ahead in their socialization.

The communication
effect

However, it is certainly not enough simply to know how to do various household chores to start living on one’s own. Kaspersky Lab employees visit the orphanage every three months to organize master classes to teach the kids, in game format, about relationships between men and women, teach them some financial literacy, show them how to apply for a Russian international travel document, purchase a SIM card, put together a resume, and so on. In what is now something of a tradition, volunteers and orphanage kids go on a hiking trip on the last weekend of spring, with tents, songs by the campfire, games of football and volleyball, and another chance to learn something new and exciting, for example, something about safety in adult life.

According to Anastasia Marentsova, there is always time for unfettered communication with the kids. The kids begin to trust the volunteers, sharing with them everything that’s on their minds. Communication certainly does not end there, as KL employees continue to exchange messages with the kids on social media and talk with them on the phone, helping them with good advice.

«This kind of interaction with adults quickly produces a positive effect. Visitors and prospective adoptive parents see that our kids are ready to live at home. This could be the key reason why we have had six kids adopted in the past six months. This is a very good result for an orphanage of such a small size,» Anna Burundukova says, with unrestrained joy. «Right now, we have all the conditions in place to create a real experience of living at home for the kids. But no matter how good the orphanage is, our main goal is to find a foster family for the child.»

The large number of employees engaged in various socially significant and volunteer projects is a source of pride for Kaspersky Lab. Not only do our volunteers tutor kids at the Udomlya Orphanage, they also donate blood, participate in charity spot events, protect the environment, and are good friends to kids who have survived various cancers.