More than 700 000 orphans live in Russia, of which around a third are believed to live in orphanages. Because these orphanages have difficulty providing the same level of support as children raised at home receive, orphaned children are often unprepared to function in the world outside of the institution.
To help orphans overcome these disadvantages, the Moscow-based NGO Step Up focuses on education as an area where these youths can develop practical abilities and valuable life skills. Within the classroom, teachers follow a curriculum that has been purposefully designed to meet the specific needs of this particular group of students. Beyond academic subjects, the organisation encourages its students to engage with each other and the world around them through a variety of extra-curricular activities, such as a news board, literature club, and student council, as well as shared celebrations and cinema visits.
In its short history, the organisation has been remarkably successful: from 2004 to 2012, the number of students Step Up has been able to help has risen from around 30 to 127. During the period from 2004 to 2010, the number of students who progressed an additional grade has risen from a third of the students to around two thirds, and the number of college and university entrants rose from one student to eight students.
These are impressive facts, but an even clearer sense of the dramatic, positive impact that Step Up has had is conveyed through the words of the students themselves: "I enjoy studying at Step Up very much. There are many wonderful people here, all the teachers are great. I have never had such a big family,” said Vitya, a student at Step Up.
In 2012, ICEF donated US$ 3 000 to Step Up which covered tuition expenses and provided internet access to students. A year later, ICEF visited the Step Up centre for orphans in Moscow and met some of the students and teachers. Read our Project Visit Report here.
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