The Original "Marina's Kids"
Marina's Kids Story
Marina's Kids non-profit organization officially came into existence on March 1, 2011. However, it began long before that time…
Marina James, one of the founders, was born in Kyiv, Ukraine. At that time, it was USSR. The country that "exiled God" and promoted atheism. The fact that she was a Jew by nationality was hidden from her until she was eight to protect her from anti-Semitism. However, at the age of fourteen, looking at the dark sky with clear stars and on a cold night, Marina wondered: "Can it be that it is not by accident?"…
"for since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. - Romans 1:20
That year was not easy for Marina. The family moved from Kyiv to Riga, Latvia, to have a better chance to escape Soviet Union to the USA. Marina got sick, spending over two months in several hospitals. At fourteen, she was one of the oldest children in a children's hospital (as at 15, kids were moved to adult quarters). With staff shortage, and her willingness to help, she became a helper with younger kids. Two significant events at that time formulated her future. First, a meeting a seven-year-old Irina was in the first hospital. Irina was waiting for her paperwork to be completed to be moved to the orphanage. Marina spent a lot of time with a small, for her age blond hair and big blue eyes girl, teaching her to read, doing her hair, and just being there for Irina.
Later being moved to another hospital as everyone ate in the dining room. There was a little girl, about three years of age, dirty and snotty, and continuously crying…
"I remember thinking: "nothing in this world would make me ever touch this disgusting child. I am so glad I am not in charge of taking care of her." How little did I know… a few weeks later, an outbreak of flu had all of the children crying in the middle of the night. I came out into the hallway asking the nurse, who rushed by me if I can be of any assistance. She said: "sure, hold on…" and went into the younger kid's room. A minute later, she came out with a screaming child. Handing her to me, she said: "Just walk with her around, so she stops screaming."
This was the disgusting, dirty, and snotty girl I never wanted to touch!
As I walked up and down the hallway, the girl tightly wrapped her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist. Her snot and tears run onto my shoulder. I stroked her head with one hand holding her tiny body with another. With just a bit of time, she became quiet and relaxed. This was the moment that I knew…I have to be there for those who have no one else to give them love and peace. A snotty little girl whose name and face I no longer remember set my life on the course of caring for orphans and children in need."
Immigration to the USA at the age of fifteen, learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture was no small thing. At nineteen, Marina accepted Christ into her life. At twenty, Marina Kogot married Sean James. Together they had five kids and worked as volunteers in various capacities with diverse children and organizations. Later they fostered Burmese refugees, who came to the USA and unaccompanied minors and adopted 4 teenagers from Ukrainian orphanages. Altogether, they have eleven kids, who are all now are over eighteen, and 3 grand-kids.
In December of 2010, after 20 years of living in the US, Marina had an opportunity to travel back to Ukraine. One of the goals was to a week-long visit to an orphanage in a remote part of the country. That specific orphanage was the destination because of a friendship developed over the phone with one of the kids. Staying in the same building as Vlad and his group Marina got to know and love these kids. Returned to the US with the realization that she could not just leave the kids as they were. There were so many needs, both physical and emotional. After looking into working with other organizations, Sean and Marina realized that the best action plan was to start our own.
When it came time to name our organization, many names came to mind which were already taken. Our friends suggested "Marina's Kids" because every time Marina would tell anyone of the trip and the kids, she would say: "Those are my Ukrainian Kids."
On March 1, 2011, "Marina's Kids" non-profit organization was officially born.
Marina's Kids is not the only organization that works with orphans in Ukraine. As a matter of fact, we work side by side with several others. For a while, Marina's Kids was present at over 25 locations, in time impacting over 3,000 kids. Various projects over the past 11 years included orphan assistance, follow-up with kids into their early 20s, medical care, help with documentation, hosting programs, summer camps, birthday celebrations, bible studies with mentoring, and training for volunteers on how to work with orphans. Our last two big projects are transition home for aged-out orphans, which started as a mentoring program with an after-school club for kids ages 15-21. The second is the social center "The Road Home" for battered women and their children. (make links to each project page)
As a native of Ukraine, Marina understands both Ukrainian and American traditions and is fluent in Russian. This makes Marina be seen as "theirs" so trust can be built more quickly, and disclosure is made of things that might be viewed as embarrassing to tell foreigners. Additionally, the current Marina's Kids Board of Directors consists of three Russian-speaking women, who all understand the culture, children, and what need s to be done. All three are passionate and have business experiences to run programs, mentor, and inspire Marina's Kids volunteers and children we work with. At the same time, being an American helps with the ability to explain to US citizens why things are done in a certain way. We are a bridge between two cultures.
Marina's Kids go where most would not venture due to distance and bad road conditions. We go where we are needed most!
Marina's Kids' future goals include expanding social center for battered women. This will reduce the number of kids ending up in orphanages, preserving families, training the next generation, and many other programs (that are on hold due to Covid-19 and lack of funds).
Please join us on the road to helping those less fortunate than ourselves. The needs are significant, and volunteers are needed.
You can see more of what we do on our Facebook page.
President, Marina's Kids