Mission Specialties has a small project in St. Petersburg that we started in 1998. It is a byproduct of another project that allowed the Easter story to be shared in hundreds of Russian orphanages. Children competed in a crafts and essay contest on the theme of Easter. We received many hundreds of entries from orphans all over Russia. A committee in Moscow selected ten winners whose grand prize was a trip to Atlanta for three weeks. But some children who submitted large, beautifully painted Easter eggs were not eligible for the simple reason that they lived in a St. Petersburg juvenile detention center. We were so touched and so impressed, we wanted to do something to reward them. During my winter visit in 1999, I went to this juvenile detention center and saw that these boys are truly gifted. Street kids, so rough on the outside, in their art open up and are children again.
We thought of ways we might encourage and reward their talent, not just in words of praise or diplomas, but in some material way. We asked the artists working with the boys to encourage them to continue painting eggs, which we would then buy as gifts for our donors. Each of the boys has a personal account and the money is given to them when they leave the institution. Psychologically it has shown the boys that they can make something worthwhile with their hands and that stealing is not the only way to make money in this life. There may be other ways to distribute such crafts, either by sale or perhaps by auction.
Masha Suzdaleva, a native of Novosibirsk, Siberia, is on the staff of Mission Specialties, Atlanta, GA.
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© 2001 East-West Church and Ministry Report