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Belarus Blog. Minsk Baby Home 1

This has been exceptionally hard to articulate and put down in words. We both feel we will be ‘unpacking’ this for a long time to come. But we’ve had a try. xxx

It’s called Minsk Baby Home 1 but it’s so much more than that; it’s a home, hospital, hospice and more recently a respite centre. Not all their babies and children are orphans: Many families need this specialist level of care for their child and live too far away.

We had pushed for this visit despite being advised that it could be harrowing and emotionally challenging, but we wanted to see what we could do to help and to get our blankets to the children.

First we visited their tiny babies, many with various and development issues associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, others severe birth defects. We were positively encouraged to interact, so obviously we were right in there for baby cuddles with their new blankets.

The Home is developing a respite centre with the Government pushing them; its success will come down funding levels. There were two children in the respite area. Both only in for short stays. Both with profound disabilities. Both looking super snug in their blankets. Hope their parents love them.

The palliative care section was wonderfully calm and peaceful place. Children and babies doted on by caring nursing staff. They particularly loved that the blankets were being given to these children. This was a beautiful thing to be able to do.

We found more children throughout our visit.but Everyone was left with a Woolly Hug. Such an amazing thing to be able to do from us all. Gorgeous to see children’s reactions.

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The Baby Home is a loving place full of dedicated and caring staff. Observing the children’s reactions with staff tells the true story of their relationship. They adore each other. The Home is spotless but clearly runs on a shoe string budget.

Yes this day was exceptionally emotionally tough. No question. But overriding this, we have come away feeling inspired to do more. We must do more. How this will manifest itself will take time to think through.

Apologies if this post is somewhat rambling. We’ve never felt so exhausted. Huge love woollies. The Billie’s Blankets were so very perfect today. Even more so as it was Billie’s anniversary today. Thirteen years on.

Love to Billie’s family from us all. xxx

Belarus Blog. Yasen Social Centre. Friday afternoon

We were totally blown away by Yasen Social Centre. Despite very little funding for anything beyond food, the love and warmth radiates out. Yasen forms a link between families in crisis and the fostering system. Children are here for up to six months whilst support is put in place and they are aged between 3 and 18 years. Older teens can self refer. Because of the nature of what they do the population of the centre is fluid. Helena , who runs the centre, copes with very little support but is inspirational.

The children arrive with nothing so it was wonderful to be able to give Hearty Hearts. This heart was given to an adorable 3 year old; His only personal possession there. Words cannot describe how chuffed he was, nor how emotional we were watching him with his treasure.

We’d asked before what we could take for the children. They’d mentioned Lego, balls, craft kits, and space hoppers! We also took some tiny LED finger lights. It was such a pleasure to treat these children like this.

Do note we’d named the space hoppers after ourselves. Happy Sharpie days!

We left there wondering what more we could do for them.

We got to meet Alexey. ❤️

Alexey is a rather special person as he was the first ever ’Chernob child’ and he visited Surrey. He’s now 33, has his own family and works for the Chernobyl Children’s lifeline based in Minsk. Amazing. He had his own blanket from us as he does so much. A special day to meet Alexey as today is the 33rd anniversary of the devastating Chernobyl nuclear disaster. xxxx

Belarus Blog. They made us run…

Already Friday and today we were off to School Number 3 in Osipovichi to meet more children coming over to Bristol in the summer. How exciting it must be and what a huge step for them and their parents. It’s been great for us to see these preparations at this stage of a visit.

The Headteacher Anatoly gave us a guided tour of the secondary school and was very proud to show us their war museum complete with a huge array of artefacts, photos, posters and books. Warcraft is a school curriculum subject here and we got to meet the teacher Yuri.

Then we’d been asked to join in with an English lesson for a primary class which was about to take place on the field. It’s great for the children to hear English spoken by English speakers

Charlie had given the school the parachute two years ago so fabulous for her to see it so successfully used. So lots of counting, colours, simple instructions, lots of laughing and a game of Duck Duck Goose. Dear Reader, we had to run!!!! And when we had to go against each other a super competitive edge appeared in us we had not known we had 😀

Ooooh and they had this little playhouse on the school field. We want one! Woolly Hugs HQ or maybe one for each project?!

Belarus Blog. The most wonderful afternoon

What a great afternoon was in store for us at the secondary school in Protosevichi with a vibrant concert of traditional dancing and singing. Truly moving. Loved the emotion, pride and passion of the children, as they sang and danced their hearts out. This is a very small school with a strong community based heart. Just a few pics and when we get get stronger wifi we can add some YouTube clips. Many of the older children have been to Bristol for a holiday. The younger ones will be looking forward to their turn.

There is a clip of these children below dancing on our Facebook page. So beautiful.

Now came the challenge. Watch carefully they said. Was like the Generation Game. But Woollies, we like to think we did not let you down 😀

Two dances for us to join in with. One round the sticks, like a polka the other with a partner. SADLY no photos or film of this! We nailed it though. Obvs!!

And our school visit was over. Wonderful to be able to gift the Hearty Hearts, thank you so much everyone again for making them.

The rest of the day was to be taken up visiting the Chernobyl 2018 in their homes. We are with Andy who leads the group, so knows all the children and Terry and Charlie who both hosted last summer and so it was to be marvellous for them to see their children again and meet their parents for the first time. We felt overwhelmed with emotion just seeing this happen. Magic.

All these children had blankets from us last year. We dug out the Bristol collection photo to remind ourselves…

Stunning!

We couldn’t really take this in, still can’t. Seeing these fabulous children again, one year on with their much loved and clearly precious blankets in their own homes. Very very special.

This is Sacha in front of a huge Welcome to Belarus poster her family had made. Her mum says she loves her blanket so much and thank you xx

These two families live out near the school in farm tied accommodation. Our next visit was to see two girls who live in central Osipovichi.

Found it! Eighth floor. Would like to say we ran up. We didn’t. Grateful for the lift!

Both Anastasia…

And a Hearty Heart for the little sister who at nearly 3 was going to have to wait a long time before she has her visit!

And onto our last family. To catch up with a lad called Roma. Had a brief stop off to see the sunset at this beautiful lake which was on the way. Huge thanks to Inessa and Irina for being our guides and taxi service around town!

We love Roma’s front garden! Want flowers like these!

And with his blanket. Again clearly much loved and used. It gets desperately cold here and his mum said how he loves being cosy and wrapped up.

And our day was nearly over. We can’t thank Inessa and Iryna for all their translations and taxiing, always cheerful and endlessly patient! And the families, what welcomes we received. Belarusian hospitality is extraordinary. In every home we were welcomed with an amazing array of traditional Belarusian foods and drinks. Many many toasts in vodka. Wonderful people, fabulous times!

And we were exhausted!

Will be coming back to this with more photos!

Belarus Blog. The Wheels on the Bus. Thursday morning

Collected at 9am, we were off to school in classic Belarusian school bus! Thursday was looking like a very busy day. Our itinerary is below…

It was to be a day filled with school visits, dropping in to the kindergarten (so cute) who performed a show for us which was adorable. These children are aged 4-6 years. One day they’ll visit the UK!

So onto the secondary school, which was utterly wonderful. Until very recently all their water was drawn from the well in their playground. Lots of pics below….

So privileged to meet again the (Chernobs) children who visited Bristol last summer and being in on meetings for families with children coming this summer. Above, last year’s children are doing a presentation for next year’s group. You can see in the slide top right pics of the blanket handover in 2018!

Inessa and Irina were acting as translators. It was just lovely to see the children again. They have really grown! We were to visit several at home later in the afternoon how exciting!

So onto a meeting with the Headteacher in her office, before lunch. Any experience we’d had being sent to the Head back in the day was put into the shade. Because look what we were given <beam>

Cognac. <slurp>

Smashing!

Wednesday afternoon to follow!