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Stepping into the courtyard at Ruth’s House, a Heart for Orphans Transition Home in Ukraine, I knew this place was special. We were greeted warmly by the house mom, Tonia, holding her small baby. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, she immediately made us feel at home. Then, one by one, more than 20 children and teens came to greet us. It was slightly overwhelming in a wonderful family-reunion kind of way.
A few hours later, after touring Mel’s House and the farm, we entered that same courtyard which had been amazingly transformed with long tables carefully set for dinner. Two of the teens were ladling soup into bowls, as others brought drinks, enticing salads, chicken, and other dishes. Before long everyone was called to the table and the house father, Vova, standing at the head of the table prayed over the bountiful meal.
During dinner, I looked around the enormous table, and watched as everyone ate, talked, and laughed. I realized then this was the heartbeat of Mel’s and Ruth’s Houses. While we all came from different places, with different struggles and dreams, at that table we were all welcomed as family.
Most of the teens come to Mel’s and Ruth’s Houses after aging-out of government run orphanages. With brokenness and tragedy in their pasts, teens find themselves with few, if any options. Thankfully the Heart for Orphans Transition Homes, parented by amazing house parents, fill the gap for the teens who come to live there. It is here that they not only find shelter, sustenance, and educational opportunities, they also find something they have been missing, a family.
After months or even years of being mentored, accepted, and loved, these young adults are better prepared to take on the world. It is with a parental sense of pride that Tonia and Vova watch as these young adults, whom they have come to love, move forward with their lives. They have given them what they so desperately need, a home, a family and now a future. – Diane Lynn Elliot is the author of “The Global Orphan Crisis – Be the Solution, Change Your World,” a photographer and board member with Heart for Orphans