Kyiv street kids are a common sight. They gather empty bottles to earn some money to fuel their early smoking and alcohol habits and see little hope for change.
“I want to have some hobbies, but I couldn’t at my orphanage because we don’t even have sports equipment, not to mention visiting a theater. I started to return empty bottles for money and then spent it to buy some cigarettes and marijuana my friends managed to get,” said 10-year-old Oleksandr Chernov, a Kyiv orphan.
There is one man who tries to give kids like Oleksandr an alternative. Vasyl Tarasko, a New Yorker of Ukrainian origin, has become the unofficial ambassador of Little League Baseball in Ukrainian orphanages (http://www.ukrainebaseball.org/orphanages.html) since 2006. A baseball coach and player, he initially hoped the sport would be taken up by regular kids. But it never happened because the Ukrainian baseball system is designed for elite athletes.