When CCP (UK) first started work in Belarus families were actively encouraged by the authorities to give up babies and young children with any kind of disability and place them in institutions where they were told they would be looked after properly. As a result of the Chernobyl disaster, there were many more children than normal being born with all manner of disability and so, not surprisingly, there were many such institutions in the country.
One such institution was Zhuravichi Boarding Home which CCP first became aware of in 2000. In those days, it was a bleak, austere place housing around 200 children and young adults with disabilities ranging from Downs Syndrome or fairly mild learning difficulties to profound physical and mental disabilities. They had few toys, no wheelchairs or other aids for physically disabled children, many children spending their whole lives in a cot and the majority receiving no education.
CCP began to take humanitarian aid – educational toys, nappies, clothes and wheelchairs. Since 2006 we have been sponsoring a teacher to work with some of the most learning disabled young people, who have never had any education. We have also funded extra carers to help with the children who spend most of their time in cots.Many of the children living at Zhuravichi now receive some education. This started largely due to pressure from CCP (UK) on the Social Protection and Education Departments in Gomel. It has since become policy of the Belarusian Education Ministry that all children should be educated, which is a tremendous step forwards.
The charity has also worked with an institute hidden deep in the forest near a village called Vikov, near Rogachev. This institute houses older people with psychological disorders and its resources and staffing levels are even lower than those of the childrens’ institutions. In addition to sending humanitarian aid CCP has, since 2004, funded two teachers to work with some of the most profoundly disabled young adults.
Very early on, we started to organise holidays for some of the residents of these institutions, especially Zhuravichi, Rechitsa and Vikov. Every Summer, groups of children and young adults with special needs leave their institutions to enjoy three weeks of fun at a sanatorium, a sort of holiday camp, in a village called Ptich, located in an uncontaminated part of the Belarusian countryside. And volunteers from Britain fly out to join the children and make sure they have a wonderful holiday. Sadly, the authorities in Belarus will not fund holidays for young adults with special needs, so CCP pays for as many young adults as possible to join the kids on holiday at the camp. CCP raises the money needed to do this by holding an annual ball at the Cresta Court Hotel in Altrincham, South Manchester every March. You can help us by sponsoring part or all of a sanatorium holiday for a young adult.
Unfortunately, the number of children and young adults able to go to the sanatorium at Ptich is limited. So, for the last 10 years or so, CCP has sent volunteers to the orphanages to take a ‘holiday’ to them! In July and August, groups of usually older and more experienced volunteers fly out to Zhuravichi and Rechitsa Boarding Homes to provide 4 weeks stimulation and entertainment to the residents. The residents all look forward with great enthusiasm to the summer volunteer visits with the hugs, one-to-one attention and barrow loads of fun and activities that the volunteers bring. One of our recent volunteers, Ellen, has written a very moving blog about her experience.
Read more about our work supporting the residents of institutions like Zhuravichi and Vikov here: Supporting the Residents of Institutions
If you like the sound of becoming a volunteer and would like to know more, visit our Volunteer in Belarus page.