We had an amazing group of Burren Chernobyl Project volunteers that were brave enough to come to Belarus in winter time. To add more to this they came at Christmas time! The week they spent in Gorodische orphanage was absolutely fantastic!
Ruth Byrne, one of the volunteers from Shannon, shares her impressions:
”I was as giddy as a child waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve the night before we left for Belarus. I’d been looking forward to this trip for so long and it was finally here! It was great to have mum there to make it all the more special. We hadn’t met our third Musketeer Amanda till we arrived at Dublin airport but it was like we were old friends by the time we’d reached London. The butterflies were dancing around in each of us and we just couldn’t wait to get there.
Our first morning was the most overwhelming experience. We walked through the beautifully decorated corridors and arrived into the gym where we were met by a gigantic Christmas tree and the excited faces of children from all the groups!! They were all dressed smartly or in costume as it was a rehearsal party for the big performance the next day when the Minister for Social Defence would visit. We watched some beautiful dancing by the older ones and a hilarious play where the children sang and danced their hearts out. Vova was dressed as Fr. Frost giving out presents of beautiful Christmas boxes filled with sweets. There were party games afterwards with everyone dancing and the turning on of the Christmas lights too. This all happened again the next day but with everybody fully dolled up – costumes and makeup and some different children got to come to allow for as many of them to get to see it as possible. Some of the girls from groups 3 and 4 were dressed in donated Communion dresses from the Irish with tinsel trimmings making the perfect Christmas party dresses! All the older girls were getting another outing in their debs dresses collected by Kathleen during the summer, they felt like princesses!
We were delighted to be able to bring a group of 13 children to Baranovichi on Christmas Eve. The main reason was to get Andrei (G6) and Alosha (G2) fitted for glasses but of course we managed to squeeze some fun in too, we took them for lunch and went to see the huge Christmas tree in the middle of the town, sugared them up with ice-cream and let them loose in the arcade where we witnessed sheer and utter joy on their faces as they roared and shrieked with excitement!
On Christmas morning we had a disco with groups 1, 2 and 6 where everyone danced to the best of their ability and of course, we had a few confetti and presents to give out at the end. We brought Fr. Frost to G4 with yogurts and sweets. This was extra special because many of these children weren’t able to take part in the main party earlier in the week. I saw smiles on faces I’d never seen smile before, it was such a heart-warming experience.
We celebrated every birthday in the months December, January and February. We brought the infamous hats and glasses to each group and gave each of the birthday boys and girls presents. They were all delighted with the fuss over them. It was particularly nice because they wouldn’t normally have Irish there for their birthdays.
We gave all of group 3 (cots and beds) foot massages and new socks. Did art with the group 7 embroidery girls. We took the rest of group 7 out two at a time to the classroom and spent some time with them there. Played board games, cards and danced with group 2 every evening. Even though we couldn’t play football with them it was nice to be able to spend that time with them as some of them are still working out on the farm in the cold weather and enjoy the company. We went to group 5 and came out wrecked as you can imagine! They’re still as lively as ever J There were quite a few from 5 in sickbay so we managed to visit them briefly one day to give them yogurts, cyrok and presents. We chilled with the Independents each night chatting over tea or playing a game of cards. They’re all doing brilliantly, those that may have been quieter in the past are beginning to find their voices and it’s great to see them all taking part!
Over all it was a jam packed week full of festive fun. The children were in such high spirits, even the normally quieter ones were full of life. It was comforting in a way, to know that all this effort (decorations, parties and presents) is made every year even when there’re no important visitors such as the minister or other politicians. I definitely came home happier knowing this.
From everybody over there, we wish you a very Happy New Year and here’s to another busy year for Burren Chernobyl Project in 2015!!”
We thank Ruth, Rosie and Amanda for the fantastic time they spent with the children – it’s the best present ever!