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Living Hope Trust NZ
P O Box 15479, Tauranga 3144, New Zealand
P: +64 7 574 2000 E:
ABOUT LIVING HOPE
The catalyst for Living Hope was a child pickpocket and a single meal. In 1997, whilst on her way to take up a post teaching English in Russia,
New Zealander Rachael Hughes felt a hand reach for her purse and turned to confront the person. Instead she looked down at the face of a
homeless child. She had witnessed countless scared, hungry children begging on the streets of Vladivostok, so was moved to buy this child a meal. Seeing the way he devoured the food with an expression of shame made such an impression on Rachael that the next day she returned to the streets handing out fruit and sandwiches. Within a month she was feeding thirty children up to 3 times a week.
As knowledge of her work grew, more and more caring individuals came on board. People from local churches volunteered their time, money, food and facilities. And for the first time, many children knew they would receive regular food, clothing and love.
In 1999, the Vladivostok Homeless Children's Rehabilitation Society, Living Hope, was registered as a charitable organisation. Being officially recognised was the first step in making a real difference. With a Board of Administration, five full-time Russian staff as well as local and overseas volunteers, Living Hope continues to meet an ever-increasing number of children in need of a new beginning.
ABOUT THE KIDS
From the moment Rachael arrived in 1997, the streets of Vladivostok, Russia, were home to countless numbers of children. The statistics were bleak. Estimates were that over 4 million children under the age of fourteen were living on the streets in the former Soviet Union. Children as young as five years old hazarded an existence alone on the cold and merciless streets of the city.
This was a place where facing homes full of neglect, abuse or alcoholism from their caregivers, children opted or were forced into a life of begging, bitter cold winters, sleeping in rubbish dumpsters and in basements of abandoned buildings and endless hunger.
The conditions were appalling, minus 20 degrees Celsius. Girls and boys as young as eight became prostitutes and beggars. Turning to solvents and alcohol themselves, the endless circle continued. The children mere annoyances under the feet of the bypasser!
Here was the reality for countless children, the forgotten children of the streets of Vladivostok, Russia.
Children forgotten, with no future, no aspirations and mostly no hope! Until Rachael and her team began to meet their needs and make a change in their futures by initialising the following projects.
Over the years Living Hope had many projects in place to rehabilitate neglected children. These initiatives changed lives. Instead of a life of begging, stealing and prostitution, children were fed, clothed and educated – even given the chance to attend a summer camp. They no longer had to fend for themselves.
MOBILE SOUP KITCHEN
Soup, bread and tea was loaded into a van and distributed five days a week from a location in the city. This was a vital connection point. It provided the first contact with new children and met their most urgent needs.
But more than this, it established trust and opened the lines of communication. Living Hope then invited the children to attend the day centre, helped with medical or dental needs and offered clothing. Children were also encouraged to attend school, give up drugs or glue sniffing, look for work or return home if the situation allowed.
The Living Hope day centre become a haven for many children. Thanks to a donation from an American family, Living Hope acquired a small apartment which became the first home of the centre. About 30 children attended three times a week for basic lessons in writing, math, language and computer skills, crafts and sports. They also received a hot shower, new clothes and lunch at each visit.
A trained psychologist worked alongside the kids and their families to help rebuild family relationships. Parents were also helped to change and better recognise their roles and the needs of children.
The role played by Living Hope was similar to the one a parent would occupy – that of providing support and love. Periodically the children would be given a chance to participate in activities they don’t usually experience, like going to the cinema, circus and ice-skating.
Here the homeless children of Vladivostok were reminded that they were still children.
Living Hope’s desire was for more than day-to-day survival for these children. It’s for a life like any other Russian child. Every year, Living Hope ran camps where children had regular meals and bed times and slept in a safe environment.
Most children struggled at first to the sudden change in routine and required discipline. Yet, they soon adapted and flourished in an environment where they could play sport, and enjoy activities like learning how to ride a bike, canoeing and sailing. A small amount of physical work was encouraged around the campsite, so they learnt the discipline and purpose of a job. The children were also taught more about God and what it means to have a relationship with him.
Much was achieved through these camps. Many children made decisions to return home, go back to school or give up drugs. And, Living hope was committed to helping children follow through on these decisions once they returned from camp.