Soon after our founder Trey McAlister ended his military service in 1991, he spent the next ten years traveling the U.S. opening restaurants for a popular Mexican food chain. This way of life steadily stripped him of many values and wrecked his faith, so he set out to find his purpose and live for someone besides himself. In June of 2000, he was approached about going to Russia and volunteering at a summer camp for orphans. He soon left the scorching summer sun of Texas for the cool nights of central Russia.
As a U.S. Marine, he had only ever known Russia as an enemy. Sitting in Red Square at 4:00 am on the morning after the mission team’s arrival gave him a glimpse of the Russian people that he had never been told about. They were approachable, and even though he didn’t speak the language, the people seemed so intrigued by an American sitting in the square. Once the team arrived at camp in Kostroma, Russia, and were informed of the reality of living in an orphanage there, it became clear to them the magnitude of what the children faced each and every day. Then the orphans arrived to camp. As they cautiously stepped out of old buses and vans, he noticed that they stayed extremely close to each other making no eye contact with the counselors. They all seemed to be afraid for their lives. He was given the opportunity to love and lead 13 children through two weeks of sports camps. This turned out to be the most influential 10-day stretch of his life.
At the end of the camp he was asked by the security guard, a Russian-Afghan War veteran who he had become friends with while sharing military stories over chocolate and coffee every evening, to stay in Kostroma after camp to see how these orphans really lived. He seemed to be on a mission and saying no was not an option. So the next morning they drove to the “orphan rest camps” where his life took a dramatic turn. He witnessed the girls, who had been in his group the previous week, having their heads shaved because of the camp director’s fear of lice. The girls were terrified. With tears streaming down his face, nothing he could do would replace what was already lost. The setting was much like how many people imagine a concentration camp in Germany or Poland, the children who had been there all summer were thin and seemed to be wasting away while only receiving one piece of black rye bread and a bowl of fish soup each day.
It left him to question if this is what it was like to be a Russian orphan.
After this experience, remaining disconnected was no longer an option. Trey vowed to make a difference in the lives of these children and similar ones in equally devastating circumstances. He was determined to look into the causes of this brutality, suffering, and pain, and was driven to find solutions to end this desperate existence that so many children live through. Not long after that experience, he took up a short residence in Russia for a couple months in order to go and be in the midst of the Russian orphan experience. This is where he witnessed the resilience of the human spirit and that hope ultimately brings great peace to children who have nothing.
In early 2001, RU4Children.org was birthed to help orphans in their distress. While that statement remains the foundation, today RU4Children tackles many poverty-related issues including malnutrition, clean water, and shelter. They have expanded their focus to include women’s issues and how they affect children in need.
Simply stated at RU4Children, we ‘Nourish the Hungry, Inspire the Broken, and Connect the World’