A few of us are in Ukraine right now to meet various partners to develop a prevention strategy for at risk youth and to explore the role our Escape magazine can play in this. Most of those we are meeting represent regional groups working with orphans — the group at the top of the pile when it comes to targeting those most at risk for commercial sexual exploitation in this country.
We have come to Kiev now to meet with people at the tail end of a national conference on orphans. In many respects, this has been perfectly timed to catch care givers at their most heightened state of passion as practitioners working with children. We have also heard from care givers when they are at their most raw, fully aware of what is not working, the desperation of the situation and the lack of resources at their disposal.
Officially there are 106,000 orphans in care facilities in the Ukraine. This is the statistic we can say is a statement of fact, these are the relatively lucky ones who make it into care. There are an estimated 4 -500,000 children classed as orphans in this country, living life on the edge, excluded from family, love and support.
Let’s just focus on those in the best care provision available to them: 40% end up with alcohol and drug addiction, 40% in crime and prison, 10% end up committing suicide and just 10% make it through to some kind of viable employment and stable lifestyle, according to statistics shared at the Ukraine National Conference on Orphans. These statistics are staggering and it should come as no surprise that the majority of the girls find themselves coerced or forced into prostitution, many from an early age, many while they are still in the care of the homes.
One of the groups we are partnering with is Circle of Friends who are very involved in trying to intervene in this vicious cycle. Circle of Friends really caught the value of sharing the beauty and the hope of the children in their care through their images. This was an opportunity to evaluate whether Escape magazine would make an impact and it was concluded that Escape offers them a glimpse of hope, of a wider world where the narrative is not set or limited. Escape magazine is a tool to contribute to their healing and wholeness, their sense of place in the world, and to make them aware of those who would seek to prey on them and further rob them of a future.
We are delighted to partner with such people, to work on behalf of such beautiful young people and, in any way we can, to cut this cycle of exclusion and marginalisation and to fend off those professional exploiters and ruthless opportunists who seek to profit from such vulnerability.
Escape magazine will launch fully in September 2011 in regional strategic contexts with the partnerships we are forming. We are looking to make a national impact as we work with others towards the 2012 European Soccer Championships to be held in Ukraine.