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Our History

In February 2005, founders Kathy Forbes and Paul Ismail joined a small group on a volunteer mission to a remote orphanage in southern Ukraine. Intending to support the volunteer efforts of a meaningful non-profit, they had no idea it would alter the course of their lives.

“It was an incredible life changing experience,” recalls Kathy. “I fell in love with all the children, but my heart went out most to the older orphans who would never be adopted. They were great kids who welcomed our group into their lives and craved our attention.”

“What surprised me most,” says Paul, “is that despite their bleak circumstances, these were not damaged, angry children. These were affectionate kids who endeared us with their spirit, warm smiles, and genuine kindness.

All of the volunteers were deeply moved by the capacity for compassion demonstrated by the children, and were amazed by their resilient character.

“They were making the best of a life that no child deserved,” adds Kathy. “But when I asked about their plans after ‘graduating’ from the orphanage, most of the smiles faded and their eyes could not conceal a deep sadness and fear of the future. For the rest of the trip, I kept wondering what happens to these spirited children when they are released from the orphanage.”

Upon returning to the U.S. and conducting extensive research, Kathy was shocked and devastated to discover the perils faced by most orphans in Eastern Europe, and the abusive life that often results. 

It was inconceivable to think that the innocent children they had encountered with the wide, promising smiles would someday feel such hopelessness that they would resort to such destructive behaviors. See Why it Matters.

“I immediately began a search for organizations that existed to help older children upon their release from the orphanage – when the government no longer provided for them,” says Kathy.”  Both Paul and Kathy were anxious to offer their time and financial support to any group that supported these newly 'released' orphans.

While the founders identified an abundance of wonderful charities that provide much needed aid to children within orphanages throughout Eastern Europe, they were disheartened by the gaping absence of support for children at the most critical time of their life – when they are forced to leave the orphanage – undereducated and without essential life skills – with only the mafia and traffickers waiting to ‘assist’ them on the outside. See Trafficking of Orphans in Ukraine.

“We just couldn’t believe that these children we met were essentially just being sheltered from the world until their 17th birthday, at which point the rug would be pulled out from under them and their world turned upside down. This is what compelled Paul and I to establish Haven Bridge.”  

Armed with their experiences and a deep belief that a transition program could successfully prepare orphans to enter the real world and establish a meaningful life, they have spread the word about Haven Bridge and the difference it can make in the world.


Learn what you can do to forever change the life of an orphan in transition.

Haven Bridge is a 501(c)3 tax exempt public charity focused on preparing orphaned children for independent living through programs offering professional counseling, financial assistance, continued education, self-sufficiency and vocational training.

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