The Burren Chernobyl Project was set up in 1993 in Ennistymon, Co. Clare. The project was established to help the victims of the fallout from the Chernobyl reactor equipment. The project helps children and their families who are enduring the effects of the exposure to radiation and other social and economic problems facing them in Belarus.
I went to Gorodishche Orphanage, Belarus with the Burren Chernobyl Project to do voluntary work from the 28th of May to the 11th of June, under the guidance of Rose Mullins and Brother Liam O Meara. There were twenty volunteers of varying ages on this trip, I did not know any of the volunteers. But I have made friends for life!
After a 4 am start we departed Shannon to Kaunas International Airport, Lithuania then embarked on a long journey to Belarus and to our final destination Gordishche Orphanage. It’s a remote rural area very far away from the designer shops of Belarus Capital, Minsk.
Despite its remoteness, I experienced very friendly, excited people in the orphanage who associate kindness, fun, laughter, care and love with the Irish. The majority of residents in the orphanage are special needs and range in age from four years old to twenty five, there are some older people also. There are 300 people in this orphanage.
The volunteers worked as part of a team in helping the children and young adults in many different ways.
We spent quality time with the children and young adults. Everybody in the orphanage is fed, washed and has a bed but one-to-one interaction is a huge part of life that they don’t receive on a daily basis. The volunteers bring fun and laughter.
As a volunteer I assisted with feeding with the people who are bedbound/physically disabled. They loved the time given and the attention they were getting. I helped with hand and foot massages and sensory play.
- We also brought children out for walks, including those in wheelchairs and did various sports and activities with the children and young adults.
- Group 2- older boys and the more independent people. The older boys really enjoyed football.
- All in the orphanage love Music and discos both indoors and outdoors. They have so little possessions and anything they have is precious and well minded.
We brought children on a trip to a zoo, which was a real treat for them.
I was amazed how positive and grateful the people in the orphanage are, a little girl, Ruslana, who walked with her hands, could get around so quickly and she was so grateful with the time we gave her. A man in the orphanage was very upset as his radio would not work. I and another volunteer set off walking to find a shop. When we returned with batteries, over twenty people from the orphanage were hugging us. The small things make a hug difference to people in Gordishche Orphanage as they have so little. A smile, giving attention can speak volumes.
I was particularly struck with the absolute genuine appreciation of each child and adult when I helped them in any way and gave them time.
When I was leaving the orphanage, I felt sad, it was heart-breaking to see how upset many of the people in the orphanage were.
On behalf of the Burren Chernobyl Project, I wish to sincerely thank you for your generosity, kindness, help and time in organising donations for this project e.g. Financial donations, humanitarian aid e.g. Clothes, shoes, bed linen, nappies, toiletries, crutches, Zimmer frames, walking sticks, toys, arts and crafts etc. Thanks to all individuals and thanks to the many companies, shops, nursing homes, schools, medical supplies companies etc. Your generosity is amazing!