SOS Children in Belarus
Overview of Belarus
The present borders of Belarus date from 1939, when Stalin annexed eastern Poland. The country was occupied between 1941 and 1944, when it lost 2.2 million people, including most of its large Jewish population.
It became independent in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite recent economic growth, poverty remains widespread, affecting at least 30 per cent of the population, particularly families with children, families with low levels of education, and those living in rural areas. The average per capita daily income is 10 times less than in the UK. The increasing number of social orphans is one of the most worrying manifestations of the social and economic crisis gripping the country: child abandonment, neglect and abuse are all rising, with a leading cause being alcoholism among parents.
Our Work in Belarus
Belarus was severely affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. Large areas were contaminated and many people, particularly children, developed cancer and other diseases related to radiation exposure. It was for this reason that SOS Children’s Villages decided to build a village, which as well as providing a home for destitute children, would also include a treatment centre for children suffering from the effects of radiation.
At present we support over 3,000 people in Belarus through two SOS Children’s Villages, three SOS Youth Homes and seven SOS Social Centres. For more information about the work SOS children do in Belarus, see our page on Belarus Orphans.
In 1991 the state government gave us a plot of land in Borovljany, about 15 miles north-east of the capital Minsk. The Village has 13 family houses which are home to 100 children. An SOS Youth Home has been established in Minsk for the older children who have grown up in the Village and are on the verge of independence. We run a Family Strengthening Programme which works with vulnerable families and communities who are unable to properly care for their children due to health or socio-economic problems. We provide holistic support to enable children to stay within their natural families, whilst ensuring their educational and developmental needs are met. This includes offering counselling, educational and nutritional and health support, and training parents in income-generation skills so that they can support their families financially.
In addition, there is a health centre for children here affected by radiation. Every year, over 200 children from the area around Chernobyl receive treatment for radiation damage at the SOS Social Centre, with priority given to children from very poor or single-parent families. While they are being treated, their parents can stay with them and, depending on the treatment, this could be a period of up to eight weeks. As well as medical treatment, the centre offers remedial education and a wide range of chances for children to be children.
In Spring 2008, we started an ‘SOS Playbus’ Mobile centre for children offering imaginative play material. The bus stops off at public parks and hospitals, at orphanages and grey concrete tower blocks. Activities such as playing, drama, dancing, dressing up, face painting and various craft activities aim to help children achieve confidence in themselves and in others. The educational games teach the children about their rights, the environment and other themes. During the events the Playbus-team also works with parents and teachers.
A second SOS Children's Village was opened in 2004 in Marina Gorka, about 25 miles from Minsk and it consists of 12 family houses for 84 children. The Village is currently being expanded to include a few extra houses. There is also an SOS Social Centre that runs a Family Strengthening Programme for 700 vulnerable children and their families in the local community. The neighbouring residential area is well-equipped and offers a park, a school, a nursery, a hospital and shops.
A third SOS Children’s Village opened in Mogilev in 2010. Mogilev is Belarus’ third-largest city. The Village provides housing for up to 91 children. A Family Strengthening Programme was started here in 2007.
Life in SOS Children's Village Belarus
Dima arrived at SOS Children’s Village Borovljany recently from a local orphanage. He describes the differences between the Village and the orphanage: "Everything here feels so free - I can play outside the house if I want. In the orphanage there was only work all the time; although here children also help sometimes, it's completely different. Here at home, in the Children’s Village, we are seven kids and a mother. In the orphanage…I wouldn't say it was bad to live there, but many children escaped because they wanted a real home. There were always many children and a lot of noise - no chance to be alone. Everybody in the orphanage wanted to have a home. Here in my new home I have a family.”
Tel: +375 17 306 4510, +375 17 306 4511, +375 17 306 4512
Fax: +375 17 306-4512