Today 18-year-old Olga lives with her mother and small son in an apartment. She focuses all her forces on catching up - to get secondary education. The girl goes to the evening school, obeys her mom and raises her son.

But several years ago the situation was different - Olga was a street girl. "Everything started with scandals at home. At some point, I could not bear any longer and I left. I lived in the street, was engaged into questionable dealings, was taking various substances I should not take," she tells. Olga does not want to show her face, as she feels ashamed for her past.

When Olga got pregnant, street friends told her about Kyiv assistance center for girls and young women in difficulties, where she could find food, take shower, get free of charge medical examination, which was very important for the girl in her condition. After giving birth, Olga got help from psychologists of the Center and asked her mom for forgiveness. Now she still visits the Center, and not to get help, but to talk to old friends.

This is one of the 800 life stories social workers of the Center have followed for two and a half years.

The Center is located near Shulyavska metro station and is affiliated to the Kyiv city center of social service. Any girl between 14 and 24 years old can visit the Center - girls are considered most vulnerable at this very age.

Half of the Center clients have small children, and every fifth girl has HIV. Many visitors often have serious problems with alcohol and drugs.

The major part of the visitors is girls from the street, who live without documents and registration. Center workers help these girls to register in a maternity clinic, undergo medical examination and submit to a blood test for HIV, veneral disease, hepatitis.

There about 30 'newcomers' coming to the Center every month, and almost all of them are victims of violence, who happened to be on the street. 23-year-old Anna, for example, has been living in the street since the age of eight.

For all these years, she has been living in basements, and when she got pregnant, her old street friend recommended to visit the Center to control her health condition.

"When I gave birth I realized my child was very important for me. I have visited many shelters and other social centers, but I've never liked the attitude there. They even wanted to deprive me of parental rights," Anna tells.

When she got to the Center, she liked it here and decided to stay. Social workers have persuaded her to abandon street life for the sake of her child. "However, I still want to go back to the street. Living there I don't think about my family I left years ago and about the father of my daughter," Anna told ForUm.

Outreach workers of the Center contact closed street community, talk to girls and give them information leaflets about the Center. Such work always pays off, social workers tell.

Workers of the Center try to motivate girls to study and get profession. With the help of partner-organizations, the Center sends girls to study to be a cook, hairdresser, manicure master, make-up artist. The Center itself organizers courses of art-therapy and courses for young mothers and holds educational talks.

Young mothers, though, have to divide attention between classes and their kids, as Center's premises are small and there is no room for children.

Fortunately, the Center has been given one more room, which can be furnished as a playroom. For now it is only bare walls, windows and doors. Social workers would like it to have soft chairs, toys and various games for kids to be busy while their moms are studying. Now, Ukrainian charity house is collecting means through its website to equip the room, and social workers promise to publish the report about spent money.

Sometimes, even those who give help need it themselves...

Alina Yeremeyeva, photos by Maxim Trebukhov


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