4 years ago, a visiting NGO in Ukraine stumbled on a home for disabled children where conditions were so severe as to be described in a trip report as resembling concentration camps. It led to an insightful blog campaign describing prevailing conditions of corruption and neglect in institutional childcare entitled 'Death Camps' for children.
By the end of 2006, activism had led to delivery of a strategy paper calling for US assistance in delivering social reform and in response Ukraine's governmnent announced plans for 400+ rehab centres to provide for the needs of around 150,000 disabled children.
The paper laid out an economic development plan describing how family homes for all children could be funded. A cause now championed by international charity Everychild - with a social business approach to realise it.
With a call for US government assistance it also made the case that what was then being spent every week in Iraq could be deployed over 5 years in a far more effective 'soft power' approach to promote democracy.
"This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority - as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way."
Two years later the death from malnutrition of a child named Andreyuska promted a young man named Albert Pavlov to declare that it was no longer possible to keep silent. It was to lead to a 'firestorm of publicity' and widespread recognition of the issue.
Just last week international childcare organisation EveryChild delivered a report to the UK House of Commons warning that we wll fail to meet MDG targets for 2015 if we fail to do more to protect children. It's a call that was made 4 years ago to US government through the 'Marshall Plan' and direct to USAID since, in no uncertain terms.
We continue to raise awareness on Facebook and other social media
We can now reveal the localion described in our 2006 article. It was Torez, a location identified in a recent Sunday Times article about orphans in Ukraine. There is a now a video which shows a photographic record of the last 7 years
We're a UK based social enterprise working in Ukraine to advocate for social change. We've focussed in particular on disabled and institutionalised children.
At the age of 4, those deemed unable to feed themselves are rendered to what are know as psycho-neurological internats the institutions we've described as 'Death Camps for Children'. Children with cerebral palsy, autism, Downs Syndrome and even some who are blind - effective discarded.
The strategy paper we delivered to Ukraine's government was based on out own prescription for ethical capitalism, as a social business model and called on assistance from US government.
Described as a 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine, it had the same targets as the original - hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos and the returnable investment over 5 years weighed against weekly spending of 1.5 billion dollars in Iraq.
Impact has been demonstrated, in that changes to payments for adopters has led to an increase in domestic adoption and government have pledged 400+ rehabilitation centres. As yet, there has been little progress on the latter.
To our call for a faculty for social enterprise and supporting social investment fund, there has also been some response in the provision of a new USAID foundation.
In recent news we've learned of the Obama administration's aims. That "development will be "elevated as a central pillar of national security strategy, equal to defence and diplomacy".
May we suggest that UK government takes a similar stance, beginning with support in this instance for "those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, who must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way".
Jeff Mowatt for People-Centered Economic Development