11. Orphan’s Tree Guidelines

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Orphan’s Tree Travel Guidelines

Orphan’s Tree is bringing the benefits of family and God’s hope
to Russian 
orphans when they are most alone.”

The policies of Orphan’s Tree have been adopted to ensure the safety of the trip participants and the integrity of our ministry. While it is our desire that each group has a positive experience, the breadth and scope of the ministry is such that each decision impacts many other aspects of the ministry. Some of the requirements are predetermined by governmental structures, laws and policies. Our partners in Russia are the Nadezhda Fun and Together Fund. The majority of these guidelines are implemented by them as they are required to work within the Russia system. 

We expect that all trip participants; including leaders, to fully respect the designated authority of Orphan’s Tree leadership and staff and adhere to that authority due to the potential liability that Orphan’s Tree incurs within Russia. 

Deciding to Go 

It is best to make a commitment to the process six (6) months in advance. 

Your Team’s Role

Short-term mission teams meet a variety of needs. Regardless of the focus of your trip, your role is to represent Christ, your church/business and Orphan’s Tree while serving the orphans and our staff in Russia. 

Keep in mind also that the most well planned itinerary will change on occasion. As they say in the mission world, “Flexibility is your friend; expectation is your enemy.”

As you travel, you’ll become aware of many cultural differences. Be respectful, calm and flexible and you will enjoy your experience! A servant’s heart is the best tool to bring with you on these trips.

And remember this:
Even the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for 
~Mark 10:45~

Airline Tickets

Orphan’s Tree encourages you to make early reservations for your flights. Group fares can aid in lowering costs. For example, try to make your reservations by the end of January for summer trips, doing so allows you more choices and also helps to ensure lower fares.

All members of your team should arrive and depart on the same day, preferably on the same flight. To keep your costs as low as possible, avoiding multiple trips to the airport and onward to your location will certainly help.

Trip Planning Concerns

Travel Restrictions

As a result of a number of robberies against foreigners that were on the road late at night, it is recommended that all tourist buses or vans be off the road no later than 10 p.m. This is a safety precaution across all of Russia. Please take this into consideration while planning your itinerary with Orphan’s Tree. 

Special Requests

As you build relationships and memories with kids, teachers, translators, and staff members we realize you may want to see these people each time you travel to the country. This is a natural request. Often, individual team members contact our office and even Russia staff with special requests to take side trips to their favorite orphanage, tech school or ministry center which does not appear on the team’s trip agenda. We appreciate your special requests. This has become a challenge to our overseas partners and one they are very concerned about. Orphan’s Tree’s national partners spend hours gaining the proper permissions and making arrangements for the finalized trip itinerary. If you have a special request, please contact your team leader at least 60 days in advance of your departure date. Your team leader will, in turn, contact our office. We will do our best to honor them; however, special requests often mean a more expensive land package for you and/or your group. Please understand, no matter how hard we try, that we may not be able to make every one work.

As Americans, we are accustomed to making snap decisions and spur-of-the-moment changes. This is not always the case overseas. Once in country, please refrain from asking the staff to honor a special request that was not worked out with our office prior to arrival in Russia. 

Many times, people go on trips expecting to see their favorite children or graduate on each trip. We cannot guarantee that this will happen as the whereabouts of graduates always change. 

The Land Package

The land package price of a trip includes the following:

✔ Visa processing 
✔ Travel Insurance (covers medical emergencies)
✔ In-country ground transportation as defined by itinerary
✔ Lodging
Meals (alcoholic beverages not included)
✔ Snacks and bottled water
✔ Translator fees and expenses
✔ Tours and Day-off excursion if applicable
✔ Staff services and incidentals
✔ Orphan’s Tree Administrative Fee ($175pp for groups under 10, $150pp for those 10 and over)

The land package price of a trip does not include the following:
🚫 Hotel Maids - gratuities
🚫 Taking pictures in museums (there is sometimes a small charge)
🚫 Food for guests that volunteers might invite
🚫Tips to bus drivers and translators
🚫Personal items purchased for/by travelers

Payment Deadlines

A $250 non-refundable deposit is due with application and paperwork at least 12 weeks prior to departure.
The Total Balance is Due 2 weeks prior to departure, however, a suggested payment schedule will be worked out with your team leader.

Planning trips for groups does require paperwork for visas and land packages. Submission after these deadlines may result in additional cost to an individual or team.

Once final payment has been received, we will send all visas, itineraries, emergency contact information, etc., to the team leader who will then distribute those to his/her team.

In-Country Concerns

Legal Registration of Foreigners 

All travelers must be registered where they are staying, and carry a special migration card. Registration is a very time consuming necessity for the Russia staff members while teams are in the country. Sometimes our staff works for days to obtain the proper stamps and permits for your team. To streamline this process as much as possible, and to avoid any conflict with Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB), we have taken steps to ensure we are in total compliance with the applicable laws. 

Every traveler with Orphan’s Tree is required to stay at either a hotel that is licensed to register foreign guests, or in private residents (ie: dacha) where our staff can register you with the proper offices. 

Communication on the Field

While you’re on the field, the first person a team member should address with ideas, problems, concerns or questions is the team leader. Then, the team leader should address the national staff member present. Note: Although our translators are warm, concerned, helpful individuals, they are contract employees and as such, cannot make decisions for Orphan’s Tree.

Personal Communication – Wireless internet access is available in many areas now, and almost all the hotels we use. Communicating with loved ones at home is quite regular. Team leaders will also be given a list of emergency contact numbers in case anything happens at home while you are away.

Photographs of the children 

As a result of a report that 13 Russian children have been killed or abused by their adoptive U.S. parents, the “anti-adoption” lobby continues to press for fewer adoptions, and even a moratorium on U.S. adoptions. The Russian government’s reaction has been to prohibit any Americans from taking photographs of the children in orphanages. The Ministry of Education has asked the orphanage directors to strictly enforce this rule. Out of courtesy we ask that you ask permission of any of the older orphans that you work with in the Ministry Centers and especially Technical Schools before taking photos. Most are more than happy to pose with you or for you and because they are technically ‘adults’ they can make that decision for themselves but it is still a very touchy subject.

As we work with older orphans, especially at the Ministry Centers, this has only a small effect but for those scheduled to visit orphanages we ask that you keep these restrictions in mind. If in doubt, please ask direction from your accompanying staff member.

If you do visit an orphanage, please keep the following things in mind:

• No one on your team should discuss adoption of individual children with the orphanage director, staff or children.
• You may be asked to put away your cameras. 
• The orphanage staff may “look the other way” while you do take pictures.
• Please do not be offended by the orphanage directors and caretakers who are carrying out the instructions of their superiors. Please also recognize that this is very uncomfortable for the directors who are used to showing hospitality and love to our travelers and now need to enforce this regulation.

“We are guests in their country,
and we need to be gracious guests as a testimony
to our faith in Christ and our love for these kids.”

Travel Tips

• Have a Prayer Team  - Gather a group of 10-12 people to pray for you while you are on your trip (ask those you’ve asked for support and those you’re ministering to). Give them a copy of your schedule so they can pray day by day (a reminder: there is a 9 hour time difference between the US and the regions we work with in Russia). Give a report when you return!

• Cash/Shopping - No one has ever said, "I bought too much.”   Nice gifts for $10 and up.  Take CASH!  Do not take travelers checks.  Credit cards are now accepted in some places, but don’t count on it.  You can find some cash machines, primarily using Master Card and Visa. 

Dollar bills need to be in "mint" condition, the crisper the better.  Larger bills need to be new.  If they are slightly torn or written on, or have black marks, they won’t be accepted!  Since you will be taking cash, you may want to purchase a money belt or one of several other items you can find in any luggage store to keep your money out of sight.

• Film/Cameras - If using a digital camera, be sure to pack extra memory cards.  Pack extra batteries for your camera
  and flash attachment.  A video camera is a great way to bring home special memories.

• Adapters - Wal-Mart or other electronic stores. (or: search for a "220v to 110v converter” on Amazon). If asked, the
  transformer plug is the same as used in Western Europe, but not like Great Britain.

• Computers, iPads, cell phones, etc. will charge on either 110v or 220v ( Russia is 220v).  
                                             You will need a plug adapted like this to plug in your device ➜


Check with your airline for their current baggage restrictions. Most airlines allow two (1) checked bag of fifty (50) lbs for international flights at no charge and one carry on but this is changing daily. Try to get something in writing from your airline the day you book your flight as the requirements on that day will be honored even if rates/restrictions change before flight.

No matter what time of year it always a good idea to pack a light jacket and umbrella. Jeans are quite acceptable in most situations but ladies should consider packing a skirt and kerchief if your itinerary includes attending a church service.

If your luggage is delayed, you will be glad you packed your meds, a couple of day’s supply of underwear, socks,and one change of clothes in your carry-on. Again: take any prescription medication with you in your carry-on.  

Don’t forget your Passport/Visa. You will not get past the ticket counter at the US airport without them! 

Other Considerations

Personal Care Items

Baby Wipes or Wet Ones are nice to wash your hands on in the bus, as well as disinfectant gel.  Most "comfort" foods (Snickers, Pepsi, etc.) can be found in the cities and even in villages.  So don't waste valuable space with a bag full of goodies.  Most people like to take along a few snacks from home.  Some "trail mix” makes a good snack, but believe us, you won’t be going hungry!  Some folks also like to take their favorite brand of peanut butter.  Others take along a pepper shaker or other spices since the food may be on the bland side.  


Your accommodations will be comfortable, but not extravagant. Hotels do not meet the same standards as Western countries. The hotel rooms will, for the most part, have their own bathroom with a shower.  In these days when there are concerns about security, our primary interest is your safety.  So each place we select will have appropriate security. 


Russian Cuisine.  An oxymoron?!  Actually there is much to enjoy.  Your breakfasts will usually be eggs, cheese, bread, tea, etc. (Yes, sometimes hot dogs!)  The main meal is often in the middle of the day.  Dinner and supper can both consist of appetizers, soup, main dish and dessert.  If there is one common complaint, it is that after awhile each meal seems to be similar.  But don’t plan on losing weight while in Russia!

Before you leave, learn all you can about Russia. Read a book about Russian history or Russian culture.
Do all you can to gain insight into the country and it’s people.



© John Smith 2020