Turning despair to hope for abandoned children with disabilities and learning difficulties in Belarus
Belarus in Eastern Europe endured the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986 when an explosion at Chernobyl power station released 200 times more radiation than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The plant was located in Ukraine 4 miles from the Belarusian border but still 70% of the radiation fell onto the population of Belarus affecting 7 million people.
Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from heavily contaminated areas, forced to leave their family homes and jobs too.
The radiation increased the incidence of cancer and congenital birth defects affecting children not even born when the disaster struck.
And thirty years on the children of Belarus continue to suffer the effects. Pregnant mothers afflicted with congenital heart defect continue to pass it onto unborn children. Incidence of microcephaly, convulsive syndrome, thyroid cancer, leukaemia, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and bone, muscle and connective tissue disorders have all increased dramatically.
Sadly the combination of disability and poverty has been utterly devastating for thousands of children in Belarus. Their parents’ own physical and mental health combined with the economic poverty endured by the majority of the country’s population has led them to abandon their sons and daughters who require specialist help and equipment to help them to thrive.
Luckily organisations like danceaid have seen the plight of Belarusian children and are doing all they can to give them a chance.
These children did not do anything to deserve to be born into these circumstances. Yet they must endure the mistakes made by adults before they were even conceived. We must do whatever we can to help them thrive and achieve their potential against the odds.
danceaid is working with a boarding school in Rogachev (Rahachow) in the Gomel Region for children with physical and psychological difficulties.
It was the Gomel Region which was most heavily affected by the fallout of Iodine-131 and children ingested the highest doses. The greatest number of cancers have occurred in this region and one third of these now 30+ year old adults from Gomel have developed cancer – that’s 50,000 people in this area alone, many of whom are now parents themselves.
Many of the families of the children danceaid supports are unable to care for them. Some children are lucky enough to have families who visit occasionally, some have been abandoned entirely. Despite a huge need, there are not many schools like this and so children come from great distances. This often means their families cannot afford to make the journey to visit or collect them in school holidays.
Belarusian winters are biting, often getting as cold as -13°C at night. Until 2016 these children had to go outside to an external building to use any bathroom facilities, even just to go to the toilet at night. Just the thought of it makes us shiver.
In 2016, your donations to danceaid enabled us to replace drafty windows and doors, and build a brand new set of bathroom facilities – and not only that, but bathrooms within the main school building where the children sleep. For many this means the difference between a wet and a dry night’s sleep, the difference between being clean and doing anything to avoid the unbearable cold. These children are now happier and healthier than ever. They are able to attend more classes do to a lower incidence of illness, and are achieving better academic results too.
There is so much more that we can do to boost these children’s life chances from better play and learning equipment to new beds and an improved heating system. Please give whatever you can to make these dreams a reality in 2017.