Meet Alexey, a young man in Russia who is learning to be a chef, and teaches cooking classes to children at an orphanage where he used to live. When he was younger and still residing at the orphanage, though, Alexey demonstrated little interest in his academic studies and little hope for a future career. Our job was to inspire him.
As of 2013, there were 650,000 registered orphans in Russia. The majority of these are known as social orphans: children who may still have at least one living parent who is nevertheless unable or unwilling to provide for them. In Alexey’s case, his father died ten years ago, and his mother has been too sick from cancer to be a proper caretaker.
A helping hand
The goal of United Way Russia’s “Step to Society” initiative is to help Alexey and other young people transition from life in orphanages to being a happy, adjusted and contributing member of society. The initiative provides personal and professional development through psychological support, soft skills training and career counseling - and so far we've helped more than 100 young people like Alexey get on the road to long-term success.
We’ll be honest – Alexey was a tough nut to crack, but also clearly a young man full of untapped potential. When we first met Alexey, he was skeptical and resistant to change, but eventually he embraced the process. After only four months, his grades had improved and his psychologist noted a significant increase in self-confidence and motivation.
Supporting the next generation
I always dreamed to be a cook and the program helped my dream to come true. When I conduct master classes in the orphanage that I graduated from, I always say to young people that if you believe in yourself, your dream will also come true.
Today, Alexey shares an apartment with his older sister in a town called Tutaev and attends classes in Yaroslavl city. The cooking classes he teaches back at the orphanage are a big hit with the kids; they especially love his cheese biscuit cake!