Zhuravichi and Vikov

Supporting the Residents of Institutions

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 disabilities 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. In 2006 we began sponsoring a teacher to work with some of the disabled young people, who had never had any education. We also funded extra carers to help with the children who spend most of their time in cots. Many of the children living at Zhuravichi soon began to receive some education. This started largely due to pressure from CCP (UK) on the Social Protection and Education Departments in Gomel. It then became the policy of the Belarusian Education Ministry that all children should be educated, which was a tremendous step forwards.

In recent years all the children Have been moved from Zhuravichi into other institutions and all the residents now are adults. We continue to provide some extra care for some of the young people. 

The charity has also worked with an institution hidden deep in the forest near a village called Vikov, not far from the town of Rogachev. This home houses older people with psychological disorders and its resources and staffing levels are lower than those of the childrens’ institutions. In addition to sending humanitarian aid CCP has, since 2004, funded a teacher or social worker 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 flew out to join the children and make sure they have a wonderful holiday. The children’s holidays are funded by the authorities in Belarus, but they are not able to fund holidays for young adults with special needs, so CCP paid for as many young adults as possible to join the kids on holiday at the camp until 2019. 

CCP has also sent volunteers to the orphanages to take a ‘holiday’ to those who cannot travel to Ptich! In July and August, for more than 10 years, groups of usually older and more experienced volunteers flew out to Zhuravichi and Rechitsa Boarding Homes to provide 4 weeks stimulation and entertainment to the residents. The residents always looked 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 would bring. 

Read more about our work supporting the residents of institutions like Zhuravichi and Vikov here: Supporting the Residents of Institutions. Written in 2018.