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A group of friends supporting young people with disabilities and transitioning from orphanages to finding their place in the world. 


Emmaus is a Ukrainian NGO working with orphans and differently-abled teens, providing personalized occupational guidance and educational support. In recent years Emmaus extended its activities to assist people affected by conflicts in Eastern Ukraine.

Context: The Opportunity

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.


  • 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 

Plans for the Immediate Future

Emmaus is looking to continue its activities with young refugees in Italy until it is safe to return home. Additionally, they plan to continue supporting conflict-afflicted families in Ukraine by providing psychosocial services through educational activities, social events, and Summer camps.

Before the Ukrainian Conflict of 2022

Until February 2022, Emmaus hosted some 35 young adults in 9 transitional homes, where residents attended culinary and craft workshops, and cultural events promoting social inclusion.

Since the Ukrainian Conflict of 2022

In February 2022, Emmaus evacuated their beneficiaries and most of the staff to Italy, where they have been continuing to deliver services and facilitate social integration. In addition, Emmaus helped a further 48 families to evacuate to Italy and is now supporting them through individual assistance plans.

In Ukraine, the remaining staff provides cash transfer support and food deliveries to about 100 elderly people and families with differently-abled children in the Kharkiv region.

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