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EMMAUS promotes transitional living, occupational and cultural programs for former orphans and young people with disabilities in Kharkiv, Ukraine. 


Emmaus is a Ukrainian Non-Government Organization founded in 2011 by volunteers working with orphans and differently able teens, providing occupational guidance and educational support. Thanks to AVSI’s Christmas appeal, Emmaus opened its first transitional living center for young adults called The Flying House. The center functions as a platform for general education classes, career guidance, occupational training, and cultural activities for young people with disabilities, orphans and families who have been displaced by war in six program areas: 

  • The Flying House and The Tenth Planet are community-based transitional housing and adaptation programs for young adults with disabilities and former orphans.  Emmaus currently operates 6 group homes for 20 young people;
  • Inclusive hub is the first open educational space in Kharkiv with a focus on inclusion, which offers a comprehensive training program, vocational guidance and mentoring for former orphans and young people with disabilities;
  • Incluendo is an exchange program for social workers between Ukraine and the Emilia Romagna Region in Italy. The program includes trainings on transition and adaptation programs for vulnerable youth with experts from Emilia Romagna, study tours to Italian social cooperatives, and the creation of toolkits on transitional living and adaptation programs for vulnerable youth;
  • Dantefest is an annual festival aimed at strengthening communication and collaboration between cultural and social initiatives to promote the ideals of social responsibility, awareness, and inclusion;
  • La Compani offers recreational activities, psychological support, family assistance and summer/winter camps for war orphans and displaced children;
  • Lettuce is a program that was started with the help of a leading Ukrainian national grocery chain. Lettuce promotes healthy nutrition among young people with disabilities while introducing them to the basics of cooking and working in the kitchen. Future plans for the program include culinary training and the creation of a micro enterprise. 


There are about 100,000 orphans, abandoned children and youth living in institutions in Ukraine, and nearly 30,000 are disabled. The majority of these children are “social orphans,” meaning they were taken into the custody of the state due to abuse, abandonment, and extreme poverty.

Orphans in Ukraine must leave state-run institutions at the age of 16 since there are no funds for long-term care. Technically, they have attended school and “graduated,” but most leave without the basic skills to protect or provide for themselves. So, they face a grim future and are left to fend for themselves in a world that is not welcoming and for which they are sorely unprepared. Having nowhere else to turn, over 70% will become involved in prostitution, crime, or substance abuse. Less than one percent make it to a university or higher education.


Emmaus works to make the transition to life-after-institution a promising one for young people. “When I graduated, I was very scared. Realizing that the world is big, I did not know where I would go. Thanks to The Flying House we understood that the world is not as terrible as we thought,” said one of the participants. AVSI-USA has partnered with Emmaus since 2017 to strengthen educational and occupational programs for former orphans as they build their new lives. 

AVSI-USA is actively seeking US sponsors and funders to support transition and adaptation programs which promote full inclusion and independent living for young people.


  • 6 transition houses for 20 young adults with disabilities and former orphans
  • 3 training programs with Italian experts for more than 50 Ukrainian social workers
  • Educational and public programs to promote inclusion for more than 1,000 visitors per year
  • 6 annual socio-cultural festivals with more than 30,000 visitors
  • 1 toolkit on best practices in transition housing 

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