New Thing is your love in action, inside the former Soviet Union
A report from Doug Brendel to all who support or follow New Thing in Belarus...
If you ever wondered what LOVE looks like...
Welcome to LOVE!
ItÕs the boarding school for children with mental and physical disabilities, at Osipovichi.
(Wondering how to pronounce it? LetÕs try it together: oh-see-POH-vee-chee.)
We usually bring candies for the children, but this time there was something special: A friend in Ohio provided candy bracelets and other specialties.
The candy bracelets were the big hit. How often do you get to eat your jewelry?
Mobility differs from child to child. Some walk on their own, some with help from equipment, others with help from a friend.
Some run, some roll.
And some rock and roll! I think this guy could be a NASCAR star.
Meet Vova. WeÕve followed his progress for years. He learns very, very slowly, but the teachers have lovingly worked with him.
This is the only home heÕs ever known. But at the end of this school year, heÕll age out of the boarding school, and move to a home for disabled adults in Minsk.
HeÕs not happy about it. But at least while here, he has received the best possible preparation for life among the grownups.
Tanya canÕt control her right arm, so the workers developed a system of weights to help her manage.
This is the kind of highly customized care that can only occur in an intensively personalized environment like this.
ItÕs school, but with lessons tailored to each childÕs unique physical and mental abilities.
In some classrooms, I felt the anxiety of my youth. Math! Science! Aaugh!
We interrupted just about every class, to the childrenÕs delight.
I tried to learn a little something along the way, but IÕm afraid the children found me to be hopeless.
Gairmann thought it was hilarious that I put my glasses on his face.
(TheyÕre bifocals, old man!)
It seems to me that the more profound a childÕs disabilities, the more deeply they love you.
I donÕt know if itÕs true, but if it is, I wonder what it means.
Mealtime can require serious effort, thanks to the childrenÕs various physical challenges.
The boarding school is home to kids all the way up to age 18.
Disabilities or no, teens gotta be cool.
Medical care is a huge part of life here.
Physical therapy, especially therapeutic massage are essential for many of these kidsÕ conditions.
With grace but also professionalism, director Larisa manages this complex operation.
I think she spends about two-thirds of her time giving directions by phone to the far-flung corners of the campus.
The teachers amaze me. These are highly trained professionals, working for a pittance.
ItÕs an incredible demonstration of the power of love.
They are unfailingly patient and cheerful, even in what seem like the most difficult of situations.
It was national Belarusian TeachersÕ Day, so in English class (at right), I left the appropriate salute.
The newest student-arrivals were featured in a concert and musical-theatre presentation produced as a gift for the visitors.
The theme: autumn. The kids in wheelchairs were trees.
Then there were appearances by forest animals and types of weather (as far as I could tell).
The big finale: a dance. Everybody participates, including our team leader Kozovaya (in red)
and the inimitable Lydia Danielevna (at right, in the white vest), who has been working with us in Belarus now for 27 years.
More adventures to come!
Thanks for journeying with us!
Photos by Oleg Yarovenko
To give online — click here
To send a check by snail mail — New Thing, 403 Linebrook Road, Ipswich MA 01938