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Caring for the Orphaned Children of Belarus

01-20-2010 12:48 PM CET | Associations & Organizations

Press release from: Health Into the 21st Century

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A Child at the Orphanage

A Child at the Orphanage

In Belarus, the nightmare of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster persists in the faces of the young children living at the Minsk Orphanage. Most of the 90 children who consider this orphanage their home, suffer from birth defects and developmental delays attributed to one of the worst radioactive accidents in human history. According to official post-Soviet data, about 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus.

After the Chernobyl tragedy, the number of children born with severe medical conditions increased and is still high in many parts of Russia. Families who are unable to cope, financially or emotionally, leave their ailing children at the doors of the orphanage.

In total, there are 10 orphanages in Belarus, 6 of which specialize in caring for children with development disorders. An estimated total of 1,200 children, ranging from 0 to 4 years, live in a Belarusian orphanage.

Tamara Muldasheva is the Chief Physician at the orphanage. To many of the children, she is not just their doctor, but their guardian as well. All of the children live in a world separate than that of a traditional household. Their family consists of nurses, nursemaids, and doctors. If a child goes to the hospital, someone from the staff joins them to provide the support that a mother or father normally would.

In some cases, the healthcare needs are so severe that the child may need 24-hour care.

"There are two departments in our orphanage," begins Dr. Muldasheva, "On the second floor there are children who will never be able to function on their own. They will never rise out of bed. This is the palliative therapy ward. It is very difficult; when souls depart this life before your eyes...I want to share the burden of responsibility with God. After all, who else can the nurses and doctors on the second floor set their hopes upon? They cannot be indifferent, they are not just nurses and doctors, they love and care for the kids as mothers and fathers."

On the lower floor," continues Dr. Muldasheva, "There are children with Down Syndrome and other developmental conditions. There is a different kind of outlet for us downstairs. The kids on the first floor are often very expressive of their happiness. They laugh and play. These little souls are pure love and happiness. The staff members get so many hugs and kisses."

Above each child's bed is a slogan written and decorated by a caring staff member. They are words of love and encouragement so that the children may go to bed and wake up with joy. They say things like, "We need you", "You are our flower", "We always are near you", and "We love you as you are."

In the orphanage, positive encouragement helps the kids feel loved and cared for. Many of them come from homes with serious addiction problems and severe neglect. This may be the first time they've ever heard any kind words.

Besides the after-effects of the Chernobyl disaster, there are also children who come in because of issues within their families. There are whole families addicted to drugs or alcohol and there many cases of HIV passed on to a newborn child. In these situations, the most vulnerable member of the family almost always becomes a victim.

There are glimmers of hope. Recently, international organisation, Health Into the 21st Century, has been organizing a large scale project to benefit the orphanages. The organization was founded in Belarus in 2003, and has since expanded to include offices in Germany, Ireland, and Spain. The push to help these under-funded and understaffed orphanages is badly needed.

For many outside of Belarus, the legacy of Chernobyl is all but forgotten. Health Into the 21st Century is working to raise awareness of the long-term effects of the tragedy and collect monetary and in-kind donations for the children of Belarus; the true victims of this event.

"As of now, we have governmental regulations in place. The government will not spend more than in 10 U.S. cents a day (400 Belarusian Rubles) on the treatment of a child,” says Maria Shelestava, a representative from the charity. "Our major goal is to provide these kids with the highest standard of modern, medical treatment available in other parts of the developed world
and this will require funds, staff, and energy. That goes beyond what we currently have."

As for in-kind donations, Maria says that there is a need for everything like diapers, baby powders, topical lotions for rashes, blankets, and of course, toys. In this case, every little thing helps.

To learn more, please visit http://www.icngo.org/. To donate to the organization, please visit the Paypal extension of their website. Otherwise, contact Maria Shelestova at info@icngo.org for more information.

International Charitable Non-Government Organization “Health into XXI Century” with offices in Belarus, Germany, Spain and Ireland was founded on the 7th March, 2003. Our main activity is now located in Belarus as third world country with big number of problems.

Our Mission is to build a healthy integral society based on principals of democracy and equality.

Main goal is to provide assistance to children, orphanages, hospitals, handicapped, and people in need.

Our tasks:
• Popularize charity, donations, volunteering
• Collect humanitarian aid and other resources for the needy
• Organize health recovery and other projects
• Provide critically necessary equipment to hospitals, maternity homes
• Advocate the rights of children, handicapped

Health Into the 21st Century
c/o Maria Shelestova
220036 Minsk
Libknehta, 68-906

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