My friend Brenda Britt wrote an article about Belorussian children. The article was published in Russian/American montly publication for North and South Carolina "Panorama Charlotta". Here is the text of the article and a picture of Brenda Britt.
Giving Hope To Belarussian Children
Brenda Britt (photo ©-ntuchina)
This summer if you happen to notice many children speaking Russian throughout North Carolina, don’t be surprised. Many families in North Carolina are hosting Belarussian children for six weeks through an organization called ABRO (American Belarussian Relief Organization). ABRO assists children and their families in recovering from the effects of radiation from the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl.
Many experts consider the Chernobyl nuclear accident one of the worst catastrophes in the history of atomic energy use. In addition to the damage to the northern part of the Ukraine where the Chernobyl plant is located, it is estimated that seventy percent of radiation fell on Belarus. While scientists debate the specific effects of this radiation and its long-term impact, doctors have noticed a large increase in certain cancers, mainly thyroid cancer and increased birth defects in children. There is an uncertainty among the scientific community about the exposure of such a large amount of radiation on the Belarussian people and their environment. As a result, Belarussians live with uncertainty which can be psychologically devastating. However, as the years go by, the world is learning more and doing more to help these people.
ABRO’s commitment is to focus on the children by offering them hope for the future. One of the many ways ABRO accomplishes this is by having a 6 week summer program in which the children stay with host families in order to receive rest, medical and dental evaluations, spiritual nurturing and recreation. Doctors note that such summer programs strengthen the children’s immune systems. The winter program includes trips to many orphanages in order to find out their needs and to take gifts and fruits to the children.
I am in my fifth year of volunteering with ABRO through my church Redeemer Presbyterian in Winston-Salem. Several members of my church host children from various cities in Belarus such as Brest, Babruysk and Mogilev. Also, some families at my church and other churches in Winston-Salem have hosted children from the area orphanages. Each group of children in the ABRO program arrives with a Belarussian chaperone/translator.
For the past four years, the main part of my work was to host our group’s chaperone/translator, Natasha Prytychenko, an English phonetics instructor from Mogilev State University. Natasha is like a sister to me. She has become a part of my own family and when I visited Natasha’s family three years ago I became part of her family. It was during this time, that I along with some members of my church and other churches in North Carolina along with a dental team from Raleigh traveled to Mogilev where we met and stayed with the families of these children. Members of our group toured hospitals and orphanages. We also visited both Baptist and Russian Orthodox churches. One of the orphanages we visited was Ryasno whose residents have mental disabilities. After our visit, ABRO through the help of generous donors was able to provide better heating and sturdier beds for the orphanage. This partnership with the people of Belarus has not only helped me recognize their needs and strengthened me spiritually, but helped me gain greater understanding and respect for their culture.
This summer I, along with other volunteers with ABRO look forward to another great cultural exchange. Since 1991 ABRO has arranged over 3,000 trips for children from Belarus to the United States. This year ABRO will have over 600 children in 14 states in 58 groups. If you want to find out more about ABRO you can call them at (919) 269-6033 or check out their website www.abro.org. April 26th, 2006 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.