And here is more lovely memories from our volunteer Ruth Byrne:
"I was so so excited to return to Belarus this year. At this stage it’s like going home, to visit friends and family . . . a very very big family!! It was my longest trip yet but it flew by. Four weeks with these amazing children and young people just isn’t enough. Each year they surprise me with unconditional love and happiness. This year was no different. I’m delighted to report that there were some huge improvements to be seen and although there were some difficult times, on a whole it was a very positive trip.
It was great to meet so many new volunteers over the few weeks, from bringing my friends out for their first (of many, hopefully!) visit to Belarus to joining forces with volunteers that travel annually and also spending time with volunteers and locals from Chernobyl Children’s Trust. I was so fortunate to travel with so many hard working volunteers who put in long days jam packed with activities for all the children. Each day we’d be up and ready to go bright and early and we’d keep going till late at night.
There was a fantastic programme of activities for the entire summer set up in Gorodishche Orphanage by some of the staff. Each day had something different from sports to concerts and trips to the lake. On the days that it was too hot to be outside we would take them to the indoor hall for games. It was brilliant to know that even if the Irish weren’t there or if we were with another group, so many of the groups were taking part in these daily activities.
We got the little ones in cots and chairs outside as much as possible for walks (and sometimes even a sneaky ice-cream!). Spending time with them away from their groups for some peace and quiet but also some much needed one on one time. Singing, playing music, doing hair and makeup, playing simple games, sensory play, bubbles, cuddles, or even holding a hand can brighten these children’s days. On cool days we were able to take some to the small gym. We took the bedbound out of their beds for massages. We had beautiful sensory play items handmade by one of the volunteers, with fairy lights, tinsel, glitter, different textures, noises and smells that all went down a treat – with the Irish as well as the children! It was great to see so many of them growing bigger and stronger and in such good form.
The teenagers and young adults were in mighty form. Thanks to the summer activity programme. We played soccer with the older boys most nights to give them some down time after working hard on the farm or on the grounds all day. We would treat them to orange juice and bread and jam too.
We went on four trips over the course of my stay; Our morning at the lake was brilliant. It was about a 20 minute walk from the orphanage and we brought 30 teenagers and a picnic with us. A very tame few minutes of paddling and a light game of pass soon turned into a full blown water fight. Nobody was safe, we all got soaked. It was the most fun I’d had, to see them so utterly free and happy. J A very hot day led to a completely spontaneous “Can we bring them for ice-creams?”, and so we did. We brought one of the groups up to the village for an ice-cream. It sounds like nothing but it was such a treat for them, they were delighted. We travelled to a crystal factory with a group of 25 for a day. It was quite a journey but it was lovely to be able to bring them to somewhere new and interesting. The children loved it but probably loved the bottles of coke they got even more!! J It was a brilliant day out complete with our trusty picnic and ice-creams. We also brought a group to Baranavichi, the big town nearby. Here we brought them to the park to go on rides, the arcade and for a bite to eat. It was a brief trip but they loved getting away for a few hours.
One particularly special day for me was the 1st of September. They held a ‘Back to School Concert’ where all the children who were returning to school dressed up and looked so smart and handsome. There was music and dance, speeches, and presents for the classroom. All the teachers from the local school and who teach in the orphanage had come for it and some family members of some of the children had come too. It was very special.
I feel like my time in Cherven absolutely flew by this year. The apartment was very busy with a constant flow of volunteers to-ing and fro-ing. We crossed paths with some amazing student nurses who were travelling with Chernobyl Children’s Trust and their brilliant interpreters. While BCP was well represented with a small but mighty team!
We had long days and lots of activities here too. One of my main focuses when I go to Cherven each year is to get the children from group 5 who can walk but need assistance outside for walks and sunshine. Our three main little chaps Vlad, Alosha and Pasha would walk for hours if they could and when they got tired they’d look to be pushed in their chairs, the cheeky monkeys knowing full well we needed to get to the rest of the group! J
We spent a lot of time with group 6 taking them outside for walks in their chairs, giving massages and sensory play. There were some new faces in this group that were delighted to play and get some attention!
We spent time in the senior yard every evening playing games, colouring, dancing, you name it! It was great to see so many of them outside and enjoying the last few days of sunshine. We had great fun with them all. We were even treated to tea and biscuits one of the days. It was lovely to see the older boys so proud to be hosting. J
We took a huge group on a trip to the disco and cinema. It was a huge success, they danced their socks off and played lots of games. We watched Horton by Dr Suess in the cinema and had made up little goody bags for each of them too. We also organised for a magician to come one of the days. He did a big show in front of loads of the children. We were delighted to get so many there from most of the groups. He had tricks, music and a rabbit and bird that caused huge excitement! We got to take some of the older boys out for an afternoon. This was a real treat because they’re normally working and don’t get to take part in all the activities. We took them to a restaurant for lunch which was a first for all of them and even ordered pizza – another first and they loved it! We took them all to the lake afterward where they relaxed and had fun.
Saying goodbye never gets easier but knowing so much is being done and improved upon, year on year is comforting and encouraging and instils hope. I would like to thank everyone who made this trip so special. To our interpreters Irina, Veronica and Alena, everyone at CCT, Br. Liam, Tamara, Yuri, all the volunteers and all at BCP, thank you for all your hard work. See you all next year!
Spaceeba ~ Thank You! J