Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline

Words by Elizabeth Parker

I have just returned from our weeklong ‘goodwill mission’ to Belarus. Of the 20 people on the trip seven came from Mid Suffolk. Everyone agreed without doubt that “no words, photographs or videos can truly give you the real picture”. All who took part enjoyed the trip although at times it was emotionally hard, but still very rewarding.

One of our group was only 12 years old, but she was a great part of the team, joining in everything and helping wherever she could. Everyone commented what an amazing attitude she had and as we restructure and redefine our itinerate we hope that more young people will want to join us in the future.

These are some of the main points of this year’s trip. In Minsk we visited the Children’s Cancer Hospital, the No 1 Baby Home and the Early Intervention Centre for young children.

Moving on to Stolin we met with the officers of the Education Department who explained to the group how vital the work of the charity is in helping the children of their area. Then onto the children’s department of the local hospital to deliver vital items of medical equipment and aid, things that we take for granted will be in hospitals but they have in either very limited quantities or not at all.

Later the group was divided into working parties who visited with local families, offering their services to help them and to learn the reality of life in Belarus. We all had different tasks assigned and how different from the UK. Having to borrow a knife from a neighbor as there was only one in the house, cutting wallpaper with kids scissors and using a child’s bed as a paste table, knocking up a table from odd wood and bits and pieces to be used to stand on to reach the windows to be washed, these are just some examples of the resourcefulness of the people when they have nothing else available.

Onwards to Yaglavichi to meet with Father Vitali who is spearheading Project Share in conjunction with our charity. This is a declared ‘clean area’ so facilitates the building of a respite facility to allow children not well enough or able to travel for a variety of reasons to enjoy the same benefits of respite that the children who come to the UK do. This also presents volunteering opportunities for anyone interested in getting involved.

We also had the privilege of being invited to attend the opening ceremony which takes place at the beginning of each new school year. This known as ‘First Bell’ and is a very old tradition in Belarus where the pupils in their final year welcome the newcomers to the school. We donated stationary to the school and this was met with tremendous gratitude.

The headmaster had placed a box in the school hall inviting anyone to donate items to help those children who could not provide their own equipment. When we arrived it held three or four items, when we left it was overflowing!

Further visits were made to other facilities again to donate much needed aid and provide support for the children.

Four children will travel to the UK for a group visit in December. The girls will be aged between nine and 12 years so we are very keen to receive donations of clothing to provide for them while they are here and to take home with them.

Not only will the break be invaluable to their health, getting them away from the severe winter, but they will also get to experience Christmas in the UK.

For some of the less fortunate children we encountered on our travels we are again going to try to match them up with people in the UK who would like to send them a present at Christmas. Details and photographs of each child will be supplied together with a list of suggested small gifts.

If you would like to be involved in this part of our program please get in touch with me as soon as possible as we need to start organising this now as it can take from four to eight weeks for parcels to get to the children.

Many thanks to all of those who continue to support us

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