This is my second trip to Siberia, specifically Perm, Russia, where our local partner, Zashita, works with street kids.
I am here to attend the inauguration of the Adaptation Center for Teens (ACT) in downtown Perm, a collaborative USAID-funded effort under the PARTner program. Russian street kids and emancipated teens (ages 14-21) are selected for a three-month ACT course preparing them for independent living and social adaptation, as well as providing individual counseling, tutoring, career planning, and internships towards vocational training and full employment.
As a consequence of this program, local police report petty crime and drug use as being down in areas where street kids gather.
The new ACT facility is a further extension of the care, training, and services provided by the Zashita team. By the time these teens are considered eligible for the ACT program, based on psychological evaluations and their overall progress in their commitment to change, they will have been exposed to other aspects of the program:
- Street outreach conducted weekly, during which Zashita street educators deliver food to street kids gathered in sewers and basements, feed them, and invite them to the Daycare Center.
- A Daycare Center handling 50 street kids per week on average, providing regular meals, snacks, showers, and a place to do laundry, relax and get involved in activities.
- An Extended Care Shelter operating 24/7, housing anywhere from 15-20 street kids ages 10-18, emphasizing getting back to school and overcoming substance abuse.