In 2011 a University of Texas at Arlington study abroad trip to Russia birthed a deep desire in team members to help children in area orphanages. After meeting some family members of the largest Russian family, with over 50 adopted children, several conversations between Chris Burgin, Founder of Allies in Youth Development, Dr.Tatiana Baeva, Director of Russian Operations, and others led them to seek ways to render change. They set out to encourage and empower Russian university students to help orphans develop life skills in order to escape the existence of poverty and hopelessness that awaits them.
The ministry grew into world outreach in just several years.
Chris Burgin, Executive Director and Founder of Allies in Youth Development, spoke at “Color Their World” 4th Annual Dinner and Banquet that took place in Dallas suburban.
… A story woven with loneliness, pain and despair can still hold hope and end in joy. Young man’s journey shows that light can come from darkness and that extending a hand to a child in need can reverberate throughout the rest of their lives and the lives of untold others. From the floors of a Russian orphanage to his new home in America to finding and forgiving his birth mother, Douglas Waybourn is an example of human resilience, a product of the power of love and proof that when the right people intervene, the direction of an orphan’s life can change for the good. There are many stories like this one in Texas!
Allies in Youth Development – Mission: Adopting a child from Russia, like the Waybourn’s did, is noble and self-sacrificing. As we all know, we can’t adopt from Russia anymore. But that’s not a reason to back down or ignore the problem. We simply have to find creative solutions to help to the orphans in Russia and Eastern Europe. Through Allies, we have found a way by pairing university students that live there with local orphanages to mentor children. At least once a month, these in-country university student volunteers visit the orphanages to deliver birthday gifts, and to provide an entertaining and educational program of skits and games for and with the children. Some of our volunteers have to travel quite a distance just to get to these remote facilities but they do it because they see how much it helps the children!
Why It Works: The importance of The Allies program is consistency. There are big companies and state-run programs that will visit the children, deliver a few presents, take a few pictures, but never return. It is their PR moment. We know this is not best for the orphans because they need consistency. This is why we return with the same volunteers month after month. The children can create relationships with older mentors, relationships that can have a life long impact.
We believe in training our leaders and our other international volunteers to ensure they know how to best speak to children who have been abandoned, including what topics to avoid, how to make the children feel loved and which activities to pursue with the children in order to engage them. We do this through conferences and meetings with trained professionals in that field. Allies encourages volunteers to infuse art and technology into their interactions. We also use physical exercise, such as soccer and volleyball, to bring excitement and joy to their lives. The children often momentarily forget their problems as they engage in physical activity.
Helping the children to discern a career is a major hallmark for The Allies. A simple visit to a beauty school or trade school has inspired groups of graduating orphans to continue their education or find employment. If the orphans are able to map out a post-graduation plan before they are released from the orphanage, their likelihood of survival increases dramatically.
Success Stories: Douglas’ story is about one child in Russia; but the problem reaches far beyond the Kremlin’s boundaries. It’s a problem rampant in Eastern Europe. It was for this reason in this last year; we extended our reach from Russia into Moldova and South Ossetia.
By God’s grace, we have experienced great success in Moldova. Regularly we receive stories of life change because of mentors spending time and speaking words of truth and life. Our Teen Camp experience this summer was amazing and confirmed to us that we are working with the right people that love and care about the orphans in Moldova and are actively seeking to be a part of the solution. This summer we were able to add to our work in Russia with the Orion Orphan Village outside of Moscow and a facility in Elista. We are currently developing contacts in Romania and beginning a new nine-month volunteer project in Pescara, Italy. Yes, we are very busy but the work is fulfilling. And it is all because of you, your prayers, and your generous support that we are able to see these results.
Call To Action: I love to hear and see stories of lives that have been changed because someone did something. Every year we go and check on our progress, encourage our leaders and explore new growth. This summer it was a whirlwind of travel but it was on this trip that something inside of me changed. I could feel a sense of urgency amongst our partners because they feel like the doors may be closing, and they want to do more while they can. The most disturbing revelation during this trip was the problem of prostitution and human trafficking. To our horror we learned that many Moldovan and Romanian, girls and boys, are being trafficked into the legal brothels of Germany as soon as they graduate from the orphanage. This information came from an organization that is actively trying to rescue them in Stuttgart, Germany.
With our current presence in the orphanages, we have the ability to take immediate action. We can get to these children first and warn them of predators who come calling with empty promises of good jobs in other countries. We are currently preparing materials that directly address this problem and the warning sound begins now. These graduates will be forewarned and informed about potential traffickers. We will keep helping them plan for their futures with continued studies and gainful employment. Not to mention the network of big brothers and sisters on the outside that will help them transition. We are praying by God’s grace that we will be able to cover all of the orphanages in Moldova. There are only 20, that we can enter, and we believe that the church and university community in that country are strong enough to expand.
In addition, we are praying God would provide the resources to go ahead and set up an Allies network in Romania to provide for transportation, event supplies, and stipends for our international volunteer coordinators. We will see what God can do.
Conclusion: When I got off the plane in Houston I was confident that we are doing the right thing because I see changed lives, and so I have a renewed purpose for our future. We can never back down from this task. We can never give up, even when the world says these children are lost causes. We must work harder and smarter, making sure that these children never feel forgotten.
- There is darkness in their lives. We need to deliver light.
- There is hatred in their lives. We need to deliver love.
- There is depravity and poverty lurking at the door. We need to invade with hope.
So, we are asking for you to give tonight on behalf of the helpless. They can’t come here to ask so we are asking for them. Become a monthly donor. It really does help us. If you do that already, please prayerfully consider raising it 10 or 20 percent. Sponsor a child in South Ossetia. If you are one of those people that love to bless with a one-time gift please be hilariously joyful in your pledge or giving. We even have The Allies Foundation for those that love to give in perpetuity.
It just amazes me how some people can watch a charity infomercial on TV and sign right up but never know where the money goes. I am right here in the flesh with friends that have gone and seen with their own eyes and hugged these children with their own arms. You even heard from Douglas who has first hand knowledge of why this program is important and why it works. We are telling you “it is true” and “it is real”, “you can help” and praise God “you can make a difference”. God has given us a plan and we can answer His mandate from James 1:27 to “help the orphans in their time of distress”. How better to help them than with the words of truth and light, with a way out, a plan, and a future. Will you be someone that they can count on? Will you?
Allies in Youth Development can be contacted by phone (817) 825-5155 or through the website www.AlliesInYouthDevelopment.org