Ukrainian orphans visit Raleigh

Redline United
August 13, 2010 6:17:02 PM PDT
A special group of children is in Raleigh having the time of their lives.

It's their first trip to the United States and many are praying it won't be their last.

It's a treat for any little girl to get pampered at the spa or for a young boy to have an afternoon kicking around a soccer ball with a professional player.

But for a group of young people visiting the Triangle, it means more than most can imagine. They live in an orphanage in the Ukraine -- 13 children to a room and one shower a week is standard.

The adoption rate for babies (5 years and under) is at or near 100 percent. But for the older children, like every little girl and boy visiting Raleigh, it's tough.

For teenagers, adoption is almost nonexistent.

Eleni Lobene of Raleigh knows how tough it is for some of the children because she has visited the orphanage and formed relationships.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), life after the orphanage is dismal.

"Seventy percent of boys end up going to prison and 60 percent of girls end up in prostitution," Lobene explained. "And 10 percent of all the children who leave the orphanage at 16 end up committing suicide."

Lobene volunteers for Redline United, which is a Raleigh-based non-profit that focuses on helping Ukrainian orphans.

"It's hard to describe," she said when talking about the orphanages. "Basically the one thing that stands out to me it, it's not very clean, and they do their best to keep it clean. But when you have 200 children in an orphanage with limited supervision, the children -- imagine Lord of the Flies almost."

Redline United has been to the Ukraine twice, even getting hot water installed in one orphanage, but this is the first time the organization has brought orphans to the United States.

Eighteen children are staying with host families. During their visit, they are getting all kinds of love and attention like a day at Raleigh's Synergy Spa. And for the boys, an afternoon with the Carolina Railhawks.

Anna Porrazzo, owner of Synergy, is one of the community members who helped bring the children to Raleigh.

Now, she wants to do so much more.

"You know I'll start crying," Porrasso said as she began tearing up, "because it's been the most amazing experience ever, and I am so sad that she has to go back."

The children don't know the real reason they are here. Most of them however, are spoken for by local families. Perhaps in the near future, they will all call North Carolina home.

If you are interested in adoption or in helping Redline United, there is an outreach event Sunday at Ritter Park in Cary from 4 to 7 p.m. You must register at www.redloneunited.org before attending. You can even meet the visiting orphans.

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