Meeting with at-risk young Russians.
Photo: Evgeny Zakharov/PSI
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Day 1: Yekaterinburg

I had a hard time sleeping last night. I am anxious about what I will learn and see and what we will be able to do to change it.

In the morning, I get a brief in the car on the way to one of five PTUs (a PTU is like a technical school for kids just out of high school) where PSI is implementing prevention programs.

Yekaterinburg is a pretty city, but it's a city on the drug trafficking route from Asia and Afghanistan.

One thing I really love about PSI's work is the research behind the programs. Of the injecting drug users they reach through their programs, they have found that 65 percent had spent some time studying at a PTU, so that's why they focus on reaching kids in the PTUs. Smart, right?

We pull up to a dorm, and I go inside to meet with a small group of new mothers. This is the only place in the region that new mothers from low-income backgrounds (orphans, etc.) can come where they can study and where their babies can be with them.

All of this is very emotional for me. Many of these girls had no idea about their reproductive health, and most didn't even know they were pregnant. They are at risk of becoming statistics, so this program gives them a chance to learn a skill and support their children with help from the nurses and caretakers at the facility. The work here is all about empowering people to make healthier choices and take control of their lives. I really love that.

I ask one young mother what she hopes for her son—an athletic, happy 11-month old who smiles at everyone. She hopes he will be healthy and happy and knows it's her job to help him develop and give him the support he needs. Hearing that, I know they will be okay. I know that she gets it.

While the stories of the women are difficult, there really is hope. And, the programs to reach them are working. We just need more of them.

Meeting more inspiring kids

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