John Callahan, a long-time assistant chief engineer at the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail, recently traveled a long way to put a smile on some faraway faces.

Every year in Ukraine up to 15,000 kids "age out" of federal orphanages, abandoned to the streets of Kiev. Though it’s more than 4,500 miles away from his hometown of Newbury, that fact weighed heavy on Callahan's mind.

"On their 16th birthday, they are just dismissed to the streets. Many end up living in storm drains or other warm subterranean spaces that we would think are quite uninhabitable. There is a whole culture under the city," Callahan said. "There are some really sad stories, but there are some really great stories too."

In early August, Callahan took his second trip to Kiev to help complete an orphanage known as the "Smile House - Bridge to Life Home,” which is a product of a Christian mission associated with Manna Worldwide.


Callahan first traveled to Ukraine in 2010 when the project first began. His experience overseeing infrastructure project for MBCR helped him lead the construction and wiring for the house.

Thirty teens between the ages of 16 and 19 will soon live in the house, finish school and get job training.

"It’s a great feeling to have had some microscopic part in helping," Callahan said. "You can’t fix everything, but it's good if you can at least fix something."

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