A report from Doug Brendel to all who support or follow our New Thing ministry in Belarus...
Your compassion ... by
For the disabled children at Osipovichi, we’re committed to providing basic medicines.
Generous friends of New Thing met the challenge and gave enough for a whole year’s worth!
I’ve visited Osipovichi in the past, but this was Kristina’s first visit.
She went there on her “Belarusian Balloon Tour” :-)
Afterward, Kristina’s email was full of joy ... and insight.
Here’s the final photo report of her Belarusian excursion, in her own words:
What great kids! (About half of the students body had not returned from the holiday break.)
Some are mentally challenged, but it seemed the majority are not.
The eyes tell so much, and there are very bright kids here.
All of them were open and welcoming to me.
Older kids wanted to try out their English skills.
(In this 45-second video, shot by interpreter Katya’s husband Dionisis, Kristina sympathizes with young Anastasia, who is tackling English grammar.
“Even I don’t understand it!” Kristina assures her, in Russian.)
Director Larissa! What a bundle of energy and positivity. (Here she is with our “Response of the Heart” team leader The Great Kozovaya.)
Even when talking about the problems she faces, or the challenges the students face due to their disabilities, she exudes an attitude of possibility.
And she is the proverbial “squeaky wheel,” working with a number of charities both international and within Belarus.
In almost every room there was something that had been provided by “friends.”
Computers, the therapy pool’s new filter/heater, and in our case, medicines and supplies.
There is so much work to be done in getting the disabled to be accepted in the “abled” world, just as in the U.S.
In Belarus they also face accessibility issues that we in the U.S. take for granted.
Elevators, ramps, accessible doors ... We don’t see much of these here in Belarus.
There is a move toward mainstreaming the students, but the existing schools are so NOT accessible that it simply isn’t possible yet.
In spite of the challenges, the goal of the school is to give the students as much “ability” as is humanly possible.
15 students learned to walk last year alone.
These are kids who were confined to wheelchairs who can now navigate steps, reach light switches, and all the other “little” things most of us take for granted.
Therapies include surgery in Minsk, where the school has a cooperative relationship with a hospital that specializes in osteo and neurological issues.
Each child is evaluated to determine what kind of surgery is recommended, and when is the best time to perform it.
In general, the earlier the better.
A recurring theme: The right person in the right job.
Larissa looks for people who are uniquely suited for each position in the school, so that everyone is doing something they love doing, and getting better results for the kids at the same time.
This concept applies to equipment, too.
For example, they felt it would be beneficial for one little guy to use a stationary bicycle.
The only one they had was too large for him, so she pushed to find one the right size for him.
I saw several physical therapy sessions in progress.
Knowing that one young kid who was climbing a ladder couldn’t even walk a year ago ... It was hard to believe.
Quite a bit of discussion about the value of this institution versus at-home care.
Larissa pointed out a number of cases where kids sent home for a period of time were not given the opportunity to go to school, or the parents failed to continue therapy.
When the kids come back to school, they are in worse shape than when they left, not better.
Therapies are expensive for families, and so many simply don’t do it.
In a perfect world parents would be able to care for their disabled kids at home, but the reality today is that this doesn’t always happen.
(Dzerzhinsk is a notable exception. Those families are heroes.)
During our tour of the dorm rooms I noticed that the rooms were tidy, but not perfect.
It was clear the kids had made their own beds in the morning, and these are real kids.
For some reason, this touched me.
Larissa is trusting enough to let us see things looking as they are, not putting on a show.
Most of these kids will spend their entire school career here.
When it’s time to graduate, help is given to get them into college or into jobs.
The staff officially follow the graduates for 2 years, but in reality, they are family, and the staff keeps in touch.
Such a positive, vital place!
Thanks to Kristina for making the trip ... and thanks to all for journeying with us!
To follow our photo blog — click here and choose “Follow”
To support New Thing online or sign up for regular email updates — click here
To auto-give each month — click here
To send a check by snail mail — New Thing, 403 Linebrook Road, Ipswich MA 01938