Our work in Belarus started in 1986 just after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which still blights nearly a quarter of the country.
Marina Gorka is a small town of around 22,000 inhabitants. It is situated about 65 km south-east of Minsk, Belarus’s capital. The Minsk administrative region – the biggest in Belarus – is an important contributor to the country’s economy. Agriculture and manufacturing both feature, and its industries include food processing, textile and clothing production.
Living in a transition economy
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused severe economic problems which, of course, affected Marina Gorka. However, the government is now investing in regeneration aimed at improving both the standard of living and the local infrastructure. Farming is a target for modernisation and investment. Limited political reforms since independence from the Soviet Union mean that the state still controls the economy, and more than half of the working population is employed in state-controlled companies.
Significant rises in the price of food and other essentials mean that many families live in poverty, and, of course, this has a direct and detrimental effect on the lives of Marina Gorka’s children. Despite attempts to increase the number of agencies caring for children’s welfare, there is still a lot to be done to improve services to families and to spread the message about children’s rights.
A shortage of adequate care
The depressed economy has lead to an increase in the number of children whose families cannot care for them. Those being taken into care often suffer developmental problems caused by the difficult situations they have had to live through. Most of those losing parental care are placed in institutions; there is a move to change this, and the government has adopted SOS Children’s model of placing children with their siblings in family-based care.
Our Children’s Village in Marina Gorka
Our Children’s Village was established in 2004, our second Village in Belarus. We have twelve family homes which have the capacity to care for over 90 children. Our children and young people attend schools and nurseries nearby, thus ensuring that they are integrated into the local community. We support and advise these schools and work with staff to improve educational standards and social care.
Alongside our home care, our SOS Social Centre provides a range of practical and emotional support to struggling families living in the wider community. Our support ranges from advice and counselling to ensuring that households participating in our community programme have the means to provide food, shelter and education for their children. We can access medical services where appropriate, and we encourage the adults to learn income-generating skills by offering vocational training, career counselling and advice on looking for work.
Our care and concern for our looked-after children does not stop once they become young adults. Once they are ready to leave their SOS families, they move into shared housing and continue their education or vocational training. Our staff provide support and ensure that they have the appropriate life skills to take them into full independence and adulthood.
And now for some fun
Our SOS Playbus is an important part of our community work. Our four teachers prepare activities for children in deprived areas and run child development schemes in schools and local community centres. Through this work, we not only provide a valuable service for vulnerable communities but often identify families who would benefit from the Playbus.
Many families in Marina Gorka face incredible hardship. Our supporters bring hope to the lives of the most vulnerable, providing opportunities for children who would grow up with none. You can help by sponsoring a child.