When we first started work in Belarus in 1994 attitudes to children with disabilities were very much as they were in Victorian Britain. A baby born with a disability was generally abandoned in the hospital and could look forward to a life in an institution with little opportunity for education or any kind of integration into society.
The situation in Belarus today is very much better and our training programmes and educational visits have played a part in bringing about this change.
Over the last fourteen years we have organised more than 20 educational visits to the UK for teachers and social workers; psychologists and psychiatrists; directors of institutions and family centres; doctors and nurses; and representatives of regional authorities and national ministries. They have invariably returned home full of impressions and ideas which can be adapted for use in their country.
We also send many specialists out to Belarus to give training and advice – in addition to all those involved in the training programmes organised by Jean Holt. Special Needs teachers, physiotherapists, social work and respite care managers, paediatricians, urologists, specialist nurses and palliative care experts have all shared their knowledge and skills with their colleagues in Belarus, and provided the charity with guidance about our work.
We are very grateful to all those professionals who have given their time and expertise and also to those who have helped to fund these valuable exchange visits.