Attraction of tender hearts

[b]In searching for truth and life’s meaning, we sometimes come to the surprisingly simple conclusion that good deeds can make us happier; in giving our time and money to those in need, we enrich ourselves[/b]Around 200 charities operate in Belarus, with members now considering creating an association to co-ordinate efforts. Let’s take a closer look at the kindness of spirit seen in our country.
In searching for truth and life’s meaning, we sometimes come to the surprisingly simple conclusion that good deeds can make us happier; in giving our time and money to those in need, we enrich ourselves
Around 200 charities operate in Belarus, with members now considering creating an association to co-ordinate efforts. Let’s take a closer look at the kindness of spirit seen in our country.

The house that Lim built
Even families outside the Belarusian Association of Disabled Children know of Minsker Yuri Kruk and his Irish partner William O’Mara (Belarusians call him Lim). Mr. Kruk is Deputy Director of the Dobra Tut Сharity Foundation (translated from Belarusian as ‘it’s good here’), which is headed by Lim. “The title was invented by Lim,” explains Yuri. “He’s been involved in charity activity since the 1990s and helps children from the Chernobyl areas. He was once asked whether he likes Belarus and responded with a smile: ‘Dobra tut’. I’m engaged in construction and we’re conducting major humanitarian activity in the country’s boarding schools, with affiliations countrywide.”
A cosy two-storey building with a mansard, playroom and small gym has been built in Minsk’s Zavodskoy District, funded by charities from Ireland. The Day Centre for Disabled Children is run jointly by Belarusians and Irish charity workers, offering a place of community even to older children; it’s a great place to go while their parents are at work. “Unfortunately, such children often lack a father at home, as men are rarely patient enough to stay with their family when a handicapped child arrives,” explains Yuri.
“Previously, mothers were ‘tied’ to their children for the whole day; now, they can go to work to earn a living to supplement state benefits for disabled children (those with infantile cerebral paralysis — ICP, blindness or physical or mental challenges).”
I accompany Yuri and Lim through rooms where their young friends spend their time. Some arrange colourful puzzles and mosaics, others rest and some play. There are 25 youngsters in two groups, with whom teachers with higher special education work. The children also learn how to help their mothers at home and how to take care of themselves. The centre appreciates any assistance from parents, of course, calling it ‘self-management’; one mother helps out in the kitchen.
When the parents of these disabled children founded their association, their mutual assistance began; they share common family problems. With Lim’s help, the centre was later established. It is one of the first in Belarus — similar to those in Ireland. Another has since opened in the district centre of Cherven, with the assistance of the Dobra Tut Charity Foundation. According to Yuri, other district centres in Minsk Region ‘are also moving in this direction’.
It’s vital that parents of disabled children receive assistance free of charge. The centre is open from 8a.m. until 6.30 p.m., enabling mothers to collect their children on their way home from work. In Smolevichi, the huge charity funds raised by Lim O’Mara and his partners have allowed the centre to stay open day and night. The men tell me that all their work is in line with Belarusian legislation, supervised by the Humanitarian Activity Directorate at the Property Management Directorate of the President of Belarus.
You can imagine the efforts made by all those involved to find sponsors for these bold plans. Each centre cost at least 50,000 Euros to set up. Of course, their example has also inspired others to similar good deeds.
Yuri Kruk tells us that he found the charity by Fate; his son Dmitry was left with difficulties after an infectious illness, and now attends the Day Centre. “Through my son, I’ve become friends with these wonderfully kind people,” he smiles. “I used to run my own major construction and cargo transportation business but had to leave when Lim suggested that I join them in this challenging project. I don’t regret anything though, as I receive more than a large profit here. I receive the gratitude of dozens of people who need our assistance. Meanwhile, the experience acquired during my entrepreneurial activities is proving useful here; I’m well aware of where to buy something cheaper, how to construct better and how to conduct repairs. This knowledge saves us many funds.”

Five stars… for orphans and cadets
Creativity and original ideas ‘grace’ all benevolent intentions and endeavours — with charity events certainly no exception. This year, the Generosity of Heart campaign was organised for the 13th time, hosted by NEXT club, at the luxurious Crowne Plaza Minsk Hotel, as usual.
The wonderful person responsible is Tatiana Kot, the Chair of the Independent Assistance to Children international public association. Born in Borisov, she is a philosopher and sociologist by education, with a post-graduate certificate from the BSU. “I became involved in charity activity over twenty years ago,” she notes. “The Chernobyl accident pushed me toward this. Thousands of children from Chernobyl-affected regions needed assistance, and I realised at once that it would be a colossal task, requiring clear organisation. We can’t help children merely with good intentions or kind words. Now, our association unites almost 500 volunteers. Over the years, we’ve liaised with benefactors from the UK, the USA, France, Greece, Canada and Germany. Our contacts with Italy and Spain also continue.”
Ms. Kot and her numerous friends work primarily with parents of disabled children and many projects are implemented jointly with colleagues from the Medicine and Chernobyl Charity. Ms. Kot believes that, since children are the future of the country, ‘it’s sensible to build this future on principles of goodness, beauty, mercy and creativity’. Her own children are also engaged in charity work: her son Yaroslav, who teaches at the Belarusian State University’s Law Department and is friendly with many young Belarusian artistes, helps organise creative events, run by volunteers and sponsors.
The Generosity of Heart holiday is well established, uniting public and state organisations, well-known and upcoming celebrities, musicians, famous athletes, political and cultural figures. The holiday has been organised since 2009 and, according to Ms. Kot, ‘over 1,500 orphans and disabled children have already been touched by its warmth and kindness’.
Since January 2012, the association of Assisting Children’s Independence, and that of Medicine and Chernobyl, have been regularly organising the event at NEXT club, supported by the Council of Ministers and the Education Ministry. Ms. Kot is especially grateful to the Crowne Plaza Minsk Hotel and its owner, Sudi Ozkan. Alongside hotel director Aidan Chengel, Mr. Ozkan has worked hard to make each event a success. The most recent featured Minsk-2006 basketball club, with players from the team presenting children with over ten basketballs, urging them to train hard if they want to see good results.
The event’s noble goal is to give the children a memorable day, filling their souls with warmth and light. The organisers are confident that, on planting seeds of kindness, we encourage children in their own good deeds, living in harmony with themselves and their world. Cultural and entertainment programmes aim to help the youngsters make friends too. This time, boys from Mogilev’s Regional Cadet College were invited, as well as those from Minsk homes for orphans and those without parental guardianship.

Chronicle of definite events
Last year, the association headed by Tatiana Kot implemented several projects in the spheres of recuperation, social adaptation and assistance in realising talents.
31st January. The Generosity of Heart charity event, organised for 130 youngsters, featured pupils from the Golden Voices Producer Centre (Belarusy art-band), singer and composer Alexey Krechet and Honoured Artiste of Belarus Inna Afanasieva.
31st March. As a member of the Belarusian Organising Committee of the International New Wave in Jūrmala and Children’s New Wave in Artek contests, the association organised a six hour charity concert in Minsk for 1,500 orphans from six Belarusian regions.
April. Orthopaedic mattresses were purchased from the Spanish Sanicher Association, especially designed for disabled children. These were delivered to Gomel’s regional boarding school, which is home to children suffering from scoliosis. Mattresses were also purchased for boarding school #9, in Minsk, which is home to youngsters with musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders.
14-15th April. The International Modern Family — Encouraging a Culture of Non-Violence conference was organised jointly with the Medical Academy of Post-Graduate Education at the Belarusian Education Ministry, with St. Petersburg’s Doctors for Children public organisation and with the Italian Smile organisation.
May. Five children affected by the Minsk metro bomb were sent to the Zhdanovichi Recuperation Centre (costing over Br6m). Meanwhile, prizes were donated for the annual Minsk Region contest to award the ‘best’ large families. Moreover, 2,045 Belarusian children were sent on recuperative trips to Italy and Spain and 25 hearing devices for children were purchased.
January-July. The Italian Smile organisation transferred considerable funds for the reconstruction and repair of Berezino District’s Machesk school — used by children who stay with Italian families for recuperation.
August. Children staying at the Bogatyr children’s spa were given a day trip to see the Stalin’s Line Historical and Cultural Complex.
September. The Generosity of Heart event was organised for 130 children from Minsk boarding school #5 (for orphans and those without parental guardianship), as well as for youngsters of Istoki Children’s Village. Natalia Prosmytskaya, a laureate of the Bravo Turku 2011 Song Festival (held in Finland), and Sergey Klochkov, who heads Vuraj folklore band, performed, alongside singer-songwriter Ivan Negrutsa, AURA band soloist Yulia Bykova, and Bozhiya Korovka ensemble from Minsk secondary school #119.

We reap what we sow
Many would agree that, in giving, we make ourselves richer emotionally. These wise words have been many times proven in Belarus, becoming a life philosophy for hundreds of people. They readily take on board others’ problems but, of course, their efforts require ongoing support. The financial and technical assistance offered by various countries around the world has been vital to their success: a ‘world brotherhood of kind hearts’ has been formed, in a true spirit of altruistic generosity worthy of all those who consider themselves to follow Christian principles.
The eternal values of love, goodness and mercy are at the heart of such charity works. Fortunately, they are inexhaustible and bring spiritual and emotional wealth to those who give their time.
Happy Easter, friends!

By Iosif Oreshko
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