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...
hear love me now?
“I Can Tell You My Name!”
When a child can hear for the first time ever, the adventure is only beginning....
Welcome to the boarding school built in 1936 for hearing-impaired children at Babruisk (say bob-ROOSK), southeast of Minsk....
Here live 103 children, ages 3 to 16, in the care of 120 staff —
teachers, administrators, house-parents, medical professionals, maintenance personnel, and more.
During the week, the children live here: studying, eating, sleeping, going to the doctor, playing, everything.
Weekends and holidays, most of the children head home.
Director Natalya, 38, is full of life, humor, and energy, but also clearly thoughtful and deeply committed.
She’s worked in this place for 20 years; her mother worked here before her.
I’ve been hearing-impaired for more than a decade.
Director Natalya was fascinated, and eager to inspect my (Swiss-made) hearing aids.
Many parents lobby for their children to be allowed to stay enrolled here, even when they could be mainstreamed into the public schools.
Mom and Dad know that their children are likely to be shunned and/or bullied because of their impairment.
One key goal is to prepare every child for life as an adult in the hearing world.
This means teaching every child with any hearing at all to speak as much as possible.
Even children who communicate primarily by sign language are taught to use their voices.
Click either photo to see (and hear!) a few seconds of the speaking lesson.
The Belarusian government helps provide cochlear implants for children who can be helped by this procedure.
When such children hear clearly for the first time — an amazing experience — they then begin the long process of learning to speak, and to interact with the world around them, as a hearing person.
The smallest kids are extra-delightful. They have a lot to learn, a long road ahead.
But they’re well loved here, and the therapeutic care is as good as can be.
We brought both American and Belarusian candy. Which do you want? I asked.
Correct answer: BOTH!
Candy bracelets, traditionally supplied by a faithful friend in Ohio, are always a huge hit.
Even with the big kids!
We came to a room full of children learning to say their own names out loud.
I was simply overwhelmed to experience their delight.
I shot video of their proud achievements, then let them watch themselves on my phone.
Click the photo to see what they saw!
This little one wanted to touch my beard. As soon as I gave permission, she went for the hair!
The teachers are the real heroes here. They’re devoting their lives to preparing these children for life.
(Accordingly, every teacher got a candy bracelet too!)
A 5-day-a-week 24/7 boarding school needs a good nutrition program. Lunch smelled great. (Big kids can work in the kitchen.)
A Dutch group provided really nice tables and chairs. (Place setting alert: Vanya sits here.)
Phys. ed. is part of the curriculum, just like at any school.
When I saw a ping-pong table, I had to give it a try....
Sorry to say, however, I was no match for this young fellow.
(At least “The Great Kozovaya” didn’t show me up.)
Much of the medical and auditory equipment is outdated.
The staff cheerfully soldier on as best they can (but feel awkward when asked to be photographed).
A decrepit building houses “industrial arts” classes — sewing and wood shop, essential for giving kids salable skills for later in life.
I hope New Thing can help them someday with their equipment and facilities needs.
There are only 6 students in each sewing class, but only 2 sewing machines that work. So learning is slow.
Yet they manage to turn out beautiful work!
The children prepared a terrific variety show for us. The young man at left will graduate this year.
Click his photo for video of a few seconds of his featured solo.
The arts teacher stands in the back and offers cues, for the kids who can’t easily hear the music and lyrics.
Click the photo of the kids at left to see a bit of their number — a song about a deaf child who comes to be accepted by friends who can hear.
The clown pantomime was my favorite part. These kids are great comic actors!
I laughed so long and hard, I forgot to shoot video. Sorry!
More adventures to come!
Thanks for journeying with us!
Photos by our dear friend Oleg Yarovenko
To give online — click here
To send a check by snail mail — New Thing, 403 Linebrook Road, Ipswich MA 01938