The time goes on, things change, but something remains unchanged, like love of our volunteers, who keep traveling to Belarusian institutions no matter what. One of them is a lovely young girl Ruth Byrne from Clare. We always enjoy listening to her stories. This one is from this year’s trip:
My three weeks in Belarus absolutely flew by this summer, faster than time should be allowed to! They were fun filled, busy, brilliant weeks. Packed with activities, trips and love. I crossed paths with new and old volunteers alike. It was great to see so much fresh blood this year. The children were spoiled rotten and loved every second of it.
With the highs came the lows, and I felt many challenges were thrown at me this year, more so than other years. Firstly, I was full of emotion and apprehension before travelling as I knew so many of the little faces I love wouldn’t be there. It was a very sad year in both orphanages. The impact of which hit strongest in Cherven, particularly unit 5 as it was my first stop. Pasha’s absence was over whelming. Unit 1 was also difficult as Ruslan and Sergei’s room was particularly empty with the two of them gone. Groups 3 and 4 in Goradische were also very difficult as too many were missing, Artiom, Maxim, Igor, Vika, Liza. But, as any of you who have travelled before will know, there are so many other wonderful children there needing love/ hanging out of you that you don’t get much time to dwell on those emotions. I visited the graveyard in Goradische to pay my respects, and remember them. I will always remember these angels. <3
The other main challenge was in my final week. The children in Goradische were unwell with a tummy bug. This meant (at one point) that all the groups were closed and we didn’t have any access to the children. While we understood this was the right call as we didn’t want the bug to spread, it didn’t take from the frustration. We felt so helpless being so close yet of no use. Knowing they knew we were there and not coming to visit them was so difficult. We were allowed access to one, and then two groups… groups 1 and 6 did very well out of the situation as they got two full days of the Irish to themselves!! J
As always though, the happy moments are always in plentiful supply.
My time in Cherven was short but jam-packed. I met two new volunteers while there, Aoife and Rachel Kenna. The girls were there for a month in total and were doing fantastic work with the children and young people. They paid a lot of attention to unit 3 who are often over looked by most groups so this was lovely to see. We spent a lovely afternoon colouring with the girls in 3. We had music and goodies too of course! We spent a lot of time outside with the older ones. Lots of sports and dancing. There were Frisbees flying everywhere and rackets and balls too. They were a particularly hot couple of days and some of the units were hard at work in the garden and preparing a new court yard. The disco corner was as busy as ever. The dancing did not stop. They were showing me their new moves and new tunes. Igor was on hand to take lots of photos, and Sergei to mind my bag! Everyone was in great form, delighted to have company. It had been a long while since Cherven had had Irish people visit so it was nice to treat them all. I spent a lot of time with unit 5, every day if not twice a day I would go to unit 5 and bring them for walks. Those that could, I would take them out of the chair and work their muscles, Vlad never wanted to stop! J The girls did fantastic work in the sensory room too.
I made my way to Goradische, and found half of Ireland there! Having so many volunteers made the ratio of Irish: Belarussian a lot healthier! It was amazing to go into a group and have so many children seen to at once. The heat continued that week so it was the perfect opportunity for some water sports, who knew towels and water balloons could be so much fun! We had two trips to Baranovichi, where we took the young people to a petting zoo, fairground, cinema, restaurant and for ice-cream. Smiles and full bellies all ‘round. While the weather was good we tried to get everyone out as much as possible where we went for walks, played football, and celebrated St. Ivan’s Day. When the weather wasn’t in our favour we took them to the hall for games. We had sensory play with groups 3 and 4. One of the highlights was the success of a day of water play with group 4. The squeals and giggles lasted all afternoon, all of them wanted a go, even Anya came racing in to the classroom! We baked with the Independents, and spent Independence Day with them in the local park where they were taking part in the celebrations and selling their crafts and baked goods. It was so special to see them interacting with the public and selling their pieces with pride.
Over all it was a roller coaster of emotions, as per usual! But it was great. We made the most of the time and resources we had. I’d like to thank everybody who supported me with donations of toys, clothes and money. Know your kindness went to medicine, trips, goodies and general running cost of the orphanages. Thank you all again! A big thank you to all at Burren Chernobyl Project and Dobra Tut who work so hard year on year to allow these trips to happen. Thank you so much, Spasiba Bolshoi!!