SOS Children in Belarus
Apart from one other small admin office run by another charity, SOS Children is the only major NGO still working in Belarus on the aftermath from Chernobyl.
Every year, over 200 children from the area around Chernobyl receive treatment for radiation damage at the SOS Social Centre, with priority given to children from very poor or single-parent families. While they are being treated, their parents can stay with them and, depending on the treatment, this could be a period of up to eight weeks. As well as medical treatment, the centre offers remedial education and a wide range of chances for children to be children.
Belarus was severely affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. Large areas were contaminated and many people, particularly children, developed cancer and other diseases related to radiation exposure. It was for this reason that SOS Children’s Villages decided to build a village, which as well as providing a home for destitute children, would also include a treatment centre for children suffering from the effects of radiation.
In 1991 the state government gave SOS Children’s Charity a plot of land in Borovljany, about 15 miles north-east of the capital Minsk. The village has thirteen family houses which are home to 100 children. A youth house has been established in Minsk for the older children who have grown up in the village and are on the verge of independence.
Alongside the Village and youth home is the health centre for children affected by radiation, plus two other programmes:
A ‘Family Strengthening Programme’ or FSP, which works with families and communities that are vulnerable to child abandonment and who are unable to properly care for their children due to health or socio-economic problems. We provide holistic support to enable children to stay within their natural families, whilst ensuring their educational and developmental needs are met. This includes counselling, educational and nutritional and health support, and training parents in income-generation skills
In Spring 2008, we started an ‘SOS Playbus’ Mobile centre for children offering imaginative play material. It stops off at public parks and hospitals, at orphanages and grey concrete tower blocks. Activities such as playing, drama, dancing, dressing up, face painting and various craft activities aim to help children achieve confidence in themselves and in others. The educational games teach the children about their rights, the environment and other themes. During the events the Playbus-team also works with parents and teachers.
A second SOS Children's Village was opened in 2004 in Marina Gorka, about 25 miles from Minsk and it consists of 12 family houses for 84 children. There is also an SOS Social Centre that runs a Family Strengthening Programme for 700 vulnerable children and their families in the local community.
A third SOS Children’s Village is currently being constructed in Mogilev, Belarus’ third-largest town, and it will provide a home to 91 little children. An FSP was started here in 2007.
The present borders of Belarus date from 1939, when Stalin annexed eastern Poland. The country was occupied between 1941 and 1944, when it lost 2.2 million people, including most of its large Jewish population. It became independent in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Despite recent economic growth, poverty remains widespread, affecting at least 30 per cent of the population, particularly families with children, families with low levels of education, and rural families. The average per capita daily income is 10 times less than in the UK. The increasing number of social orphans is one of the most worrying manifestations of the social and economic crisis gripping the country: child abandonment, neglect and abuse are all rising, with a leading cause being alcoholism among parents.
At present we support over 3,000 people in Belarus through 2 SOS Children’s Villages, 3 SOS Youth Homes and 7 SOS Social Centres.
For more information about the work we do in Belarus, see our page on Belarus Orphans.
Dima arrived at SOS Children’s Borovljany recently from a local orphanage. He describes the differences between the Village and the orphanage: "Everything here feels so free - I can play outside the house if I want. In the orphanage there was only work all the time; although here children also help sometimes it's completely different. Here at home, in the Children’s Village, we are seven kids and a mother. In the orphanage I wouldn't say it was bad to live there, but many children escaped because they wanted a real home. There were always many children and a lot of noise - no chance to be alone. Everybody in the orphanage wanted to have a home. Here in my new home I have a family.”
Local Contact in Belarus
Belarus' SOS Children's Village Foundation
Tel +375/17/ 2278228
Fax +375/17/227 8228
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