This is the first part of our ‘Stories of Russ’ series.  In this article, we’re going to be telling you a short story.  A short story about a girl growing up at our Home for Children without Parents.  To protect her identity, we’ll be calling her Lucy.  All images are stock photos and/or blurred.

Lucy’s Background

The year was 2007.  Lucy’s mother was a female sex work who lived, ate, washed and even had sex on the streets of Madurai.  She was HIV positive.  She had a baby with her partner, and they continued to survive.  The baby was named Lucy.


Lucy’s father then left, and Lucy’s mother got a new boyfriend; an alcoholic, and a generally nasty man.  Lucy is also HIV positive, and the mums new partner made a sign for her to go begging, and it read in Tamil; “I’m HIV positive, and my mum is HIV positive.  Please give me money.”  Lucy begged naked on the train platforms in Madurai to fund her step father’s alcoholism.

Enter, the Russ Foundation.

The Russ Foundation runs an outreach programme which works to support female sex workers.  Russ provides; free medical checks, condoms, counselling, and a drop-in centre where sex workers can meet and share their problems.  Lucy’s mother was a part of this.


Eventually, because of HIV, her health deteriorated and she felt that she would not live for very long.  She approached the Russ Foundation, asking whether the outreach workers could take care of Lucy, as she didn’t want to leave her in the hands of her nasty partner.


The outreach workers asked Berlin if this was possible and, of course, he said yes.

Lucy’s Russ Introduction

When Lucy was brought to the Russ Foundation, it would be fair to say that she was in a terrible state.  In fact, Berlin’s description of when Lucy arrived was this:


Lucy was brought into my office.  Lucy was with a bulgy stomach, dried nose, knotted hair, not taken a bath for ages, not clothed and with a foul smell. Totally dusty.  Anyone would think more than twice to carry a child in this condition.


Well, anyone excluding the Russ Foundation outreach workers.  Immediately, they cared for Lucy.  They tried to turn her life around.

The Early Days

Simply put, the transformation of Lucy has been quite miraculous.  Underneath that dusty, dirty exterior that we described above, was a beautiful little girl with the most amazing smile.  But Lucy’s battle was not yet over.  No.  In fact, integrating her into our Home for Children without Parents was a serious challenge.


The challenges seemed endless.  Lucy was used to eating out of bins, so refused to eat the food that was provided to her.  Instead, she’d wait for the other children to finish eating, before going and trying to eat from the bin after meal time.  Once this issue was solved, her digestion suffered because she wasn’t used to the good quality of food provided to her.  She hated to wear clothes, because she was used to being naked.  Beyond all of this, it took her a long time to interact with the rest of the Russ Family.

The Russ Impact

The truth is that this isn’t necessarily an entirely unique story.  In fact, it is just one of the many heart-warming stories that only exist because of the Russ Foundation.  Simply put, if the Russ Foundation hadn’t stepped in, there is no doubt where Lucy would be now.  No, she wouldn’t be at another children’s home; most homes won’t take a child with HIV.  She wouldn’t still be on the streets; she’d have little chance fending for herself.  Lucy would be dead.  Lucy’s mum died one week after asking the Russ Foundation for help.  One week later, and Lucy might not be with us today.

The Russ Transformation

Thankfully, because of the perseverance from all the staff and children at the Russ Foundation, Lucy did settle in.  Now, Lucy is a young girl whom is healthy… but most importantly of all, very happy.  Lucy’s story in this respect is not at all unique within the Russ Foundation.  The Home for Children without Parents provides a home for various children, often with horrible backgrounds.  However, thanks to the care and support of Russ Family, the children are happy, excelling in their education, and have been given a truly deserved second chance in life.

Your Support Changes Lives

Ultimately, it’s the support of people like you that enable these programmes to run.  A small monthly donation really does have a huge impact on the programmes we support.  We implore you to join the Russ Family today.  Your support really can change lives for the better.

This story uses extracts, used with permission, from a report written by Lemming’s Theatre surrounding the same story.

Your donations change lives and lets us continue our incredible work.
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