Returning to Cherven
Winter is a relatively quiet time, when you can look through photographs, memories, moments, impressions.
Today Dean Ladrigan, a volunteer of Burren Chernobyl Project , Ireland shares memories of his second trip to Cherven orphanage:
In October 2016, I returned to Cherven orphanage for my second visit. This time I travelled alone from Dublin. The fear and apprehension I had felt on my first visit in 2014 where replaced by excitement and eagerness. On your first visit to Belarus it is a bit of a whirlwind. There are so many people to see and meet, that it can feel like you aren’t giving enough time with any single group, but this isn’t the case. Any time you can give, regardless of the length is appreciated more than anyone looking in can realise. All any of us in this world want is attention and acknowledgement.
So going back I had an idea of where I wanted to spend my time during each day and night. I knew that each morning I would spend time with groups, where the staff needed more assistance, and in the afternoon and evening I would be with more dependant groups. I knew I would have my dear friend Alena by my side to help translate anything that was being said to me. Seeing her passion for her job with BCP & Dobra Tut was the reason I had no fears about going back alone.
The thing that sticks with me most from this trip is my first morning back in Cherven. Walking up the path towards the main doors of the orphanage for the first time after 2 years, Alena by my side is a feeling I will never forget. I had dreamt of Cherven and knew the orphanage well, I knew where my friends would be at any given time so I set off in search of some familiar faces.
These are people I think of on a daily basis, these are the friends that help give my life perspective. When I think my day is tough I think of Jenya, or Arshenja or Polina and my troubles seems to be less. I had a fear though that they might not remember me. But that fear was quickly dissolved when I met Polina in one of the halls. She knew exactly who I was and came running towards me. This child who had known me for a week in 2014 was running towards me with open arms and it was one of the greatest feelings anyone can experience. It was pure joy.
I had also met a young man named Jenya in 2014. He is mute so communication was strangely easier because language wasn’t an issue. One of the first things he wanted to show me was photos I had sent him after my first trip. Seeing the care he had given these photos was special. He was showing me that I was important to him.
For me anyway, what you get from visiting Belarus can be broken down quite easily. Firstly you get love and appreciation. The kids and young adults will show you more love than you can comprehend. The workers like Zoya, Maria and Malik will show you appreciation for coming to spend time with their kids. And secondly you get perspective. You get to see what really matters in life and that is something you’ll just have to figure out for yourself. When you go to Cherven see these kids for yourself you’ll understand what I mean. There is nothing hard about going to Cherven, that hard part is saying goodbye.