Giving a start for future
[b]Klichev, in Mogilev Region, has a family with over 35 children — thanks to the social Warm House programme — an important project realised by the Belarusian Children’s Foundation[/b]The Foundation and its Warm House project have existed for over two decades. “We’ve been assisting parentless children since the early days of our activity,” explains writer Vladimir Lipsky — the Head of the Belarusian Children’s Foundation’s Board, a member of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and a laureate of Belarus’ State Award. “Our Warm House deserves to have a book written about it, as each family orphanage has its own story of parentless children finding new families. They are raised and go on to take their first steps in adult life.”
The Foundation and its Warm House project have existed for over two decades. “We’ve been assisting parentless children since the early days of our activity,” explains writer Vladimir Lipsky — the Head of the Belarusian Children’s Foundation’s Board, a member of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and a laureate of Belarus’ State Award. “Our Warm House deserves to have a book written about it, as each family orphanage has its own story of parentless children finding new families. They are raised and go on to take their first steps in adult life.”
Presenting a house for happiness
Mr. Lipsky believes that Margarita and Sergey Kundikov, from Klichev, set a good example. Their family orphanage — established with help from the Children’s Foundation — is home to 36 children: four of their own and 32 adopted. Some have already left to make their own way in the world but they always retain their spiritual tie to the family. Adopted Katya has now graduated from the Belarusian State Agrarian Technical University and has married. Mr. Lipsky admits with pleasure that, on giving birth to her own daughter, Katya phoned Margarita immediately, and then the Belarusian Children’s Foundation. “As far as we know, Katya is living with her husband in his home city of Lyuban, where they are building their own house,” Mr. Lipsky tells us. “Such people as the Kundikovs are true heroes of our time. With their help, parentless Katya was not lost but was inspired by the spiritual warmth of this unusual family which now guides her own family life.”
In fact, you can read about the Kundikovs on the Internet, as Margarita has her own blog. Anyone interested in the Klichev family orphanage can contact her, or even meet her personally — they are a very friendly family. Mr. Lipsky adds that the family orphanage of Tamara and Vladislav Sentsov, from Bobruisk, is also a wonderful place, having homed 26 children — most of whom now live independently. Eight adopted children still live with Tamara and Vladislav.
How many children have had the chance to enjoy complete social adaptation via the Warm House project? “We’ve calculated that, in over 20 years of activity, 570 parentless children have been raised by family orphanages. In other words, the equal of five state run orphanages,” Mr. Lipsky tells us. “No doubt, this is an important factor in the work of the Children’s Foundation. We support 41 family orphanages, with a total housing area of 8,488 square metres. Each family uses a slightly different approach to bringing up children and organising their education, while growing different fruits and vegetables and developing the artistic talents of their children.”
The work of volunteers and activists within the Foundation also deserves attention. They seek out unfinished cottages for use as family orphanages. The Foundation can then calculate the costs and purchase the house from donations. Sponsors include those from abroad. Parents and children are then sought out, with the Foundation’s participation. “Even after a family has settled into a house, we continue to support them,” notes Vladimir. “We follow their lives, providing financial and moral assistance. For example, we bought a cow for a family, to allow them to make their own dairy products. Another family was assisted in purchasing furniture and another wanted an oven in which to fire pottery (as all the children were keen on this hobby)”.
The Belarusian Children’s Foundation supports its orphanages fully. This year, children are travelling to Moscow on the eve of June 1st — as is traditional — to celebrate the International Children’s Day. They’ll take part in various artistic exhibitions and seminars run by the Foundation, while their parents have the chance to chat to others bringing up parentless children. These unusual mothers and fathers are also sometimes awarded with diverse prizes. For example, ONT TV Channel’s Pride of the Nation project recently awarded Margarita Kundikova for her maternal care. Meanwhile, in 2010, Tamara Sentsova was recognised by the Presidential ‘For Spiritual Revival’ Award. Some mothers from family orphanages have been awarded the St. Prince Dmitry Order — ‘For Merciful Activity’, bestowed by the Patriarch of All-Russia and the International Association of Children’s Foundations.
Fraternal community of kind actions
The Belarusian Children’s Foundation has been protecting children’s rights for almost 25 years, with members often taking on challenging youngsters. “We take care of parentless and disabled children, as well as those who have suffered abuse or been abandoned by relatives,” Mr. Lipsky explains. “We — the Foundation’s activists — wipe their tears and do all we can to protect them from trouble and illness. We support them morally and financially. In helping them with their struggle, which is rarely easy, we enrich our own lives. Our spirituality grows through our own acts of kindness and we come to see ourselves as people with a mission to help others.”
Jointly with Mr. Lipsky, dozens of people walk this stony path of mercy — as he admits. They are found in Minsk and almost every Belarusian city, with the number of volunteers growing annually. There are many who feel sympathy for children’s problems and wish to do their own part to help. Mr. Lipsky emphasises that huge civil support is vital for the Foundation’s operation and is at the heart of its success. The significant achievements of recent years are worthy of pride and instil hope for the future.
Since Soviet times, staff from the Belarusian Children’s Foundation have kept close contact with foreign colleagues. At the end of 2011, the Belarusian Vyaselka magazine was awarded an honorary diploma at the Best — for Children! exhibition, in Moscow’s Manege. Mr. Lipsky — who has headed the magazine for over 30 years — views the award as a great honour, showing Russian colleagues’ appreciation of the Belarusian exhibition in Moscow and of the magazine itself. The latter has been included in a Russian catalogue promoting the best Russian products and services for children.
“Working for children and, accordingly, for the future, unites activists from post-Soviet states’ children’s foundations. We try to help each other in our work, while realising socially important projects,” Mr. Lipsky asserts. “When the Soviet Union collapsed, we established the International Association of Children’s Foundations — headed by famous Russian writer Albert Likhanov. We annually gather in Moscow and our headquarters is situated near the Belarusian Embassy to Russia. We raise flags, so it resembles a meeting of the Soviet Union. Really, children bring countries closer. This year, on June 1st (International Children’s Day), our delegation will go to Moscow, meeting representatives of family orphanages from various countries. The Russians will organise a programme and we’ll be able to share experience at recuperative camps near Moscow.”
Mr. Lipsky — who has worked with the Foundation and the Association since their establishment — has friends all over the globe. “We meet those who help children,” he says, reeling off the names of his friends from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Moldova. “These are responsible people of various professions: scientists, writers, teachers and managers. Moreover, our meeting unites activists from all over Russia — including Chechnya, Sakhalin and Kamchatka. Such meetings allow us not only to share experience but to be inspired with new ideas and energy for the coming year,” he adds.
Heart to heart
Last year, on the eve of the conference — at which Mr. Lipsky was again elected Head of the Belarusian Children’s Foundation — it was noted that, over the past five years, the organisation had received about Br5bn incharitable donations — including from foreign sponsors. Its major avenues of activity are well known: the protection of children’s rights and interests, and the rendering of material, humanitarian, medical, legal and other assistance.
The Foundation supports parentless, unwell and disabled children’s talents. Moreover, it helps families on low incomes via special programmes — usually realised with support from state bodies. One such is Children’s Heart. “Over the past five years, Belarus has been visited 13 times by an international team of cardio-surgeons — headed by American William Novik,” notes the Foundation’s press secretary, Yulia Kaptsevich. “During these visits, 286 children have undergone operations, while another 458 have received consultations. In fact, most of these heart operations have saved the children’s lives. Many of those treated have no parents, so could never have afforded such an operation without the Foundation’s assistance. Moreover, the foreign cardio-surgeons teach Belarusian specialists how to apply modern technologies, sharing their experience. As a result, our doctors now work as part of an international cardio-team in Russia, Ukraine, China, Pakistan and Azerbaijan. As you see, kindness travels and grows exponentially.”
The Children’s Heart project has resulted in the country’s unique Merry Hearts rehabilitation-recuperative programme, which unites children with heart problems. The Foundation annually allocates about $10,000 to the programme and, over the past six years, has helped 290 patients in their rehabilitation. The Merry Hopes programme is another financed by the Foundation, helping children with cancer.
Fairytale on a moon beam
Misha, 12, lives in a hospice, as my old friend, poet Igor Shevshuk, tells me. He lives in St. Petersburg and, thirty years ago, we graduated from Leningrad State University’s Journalism Department together. I hope you’ll forgive my personal, ‘human’ response to Misha’s story, which he wrote last autumn, in intensive care, after doctors refused to treat him. Igor tells me that the boy wrote the story for a school literary contest, although this matter little. He explains: ‘Importantly, he wishes his fairytale to be read. We promised him that we would publish it, which warmed his heart. So, please, read on. Misha deserves this’.
Once upon a time, there lived a moonbeam. It was very thin and could hardly see through the deep clouds. He was often lost among the trees in the dense forest and failed to see through a window into a room if the curtains were drawn. The beam dreamt of becoming as strong as his elder brothers — the sun’s rays — who brought joy, warmth and life. The small moonbeam was filled with sorrow: ‘Will I ever become stronger? Can I do something good?’
A silver star told him, “We are special. We can shine at night and present miracles to the world. Do this from the depth of your heart and never be afraid!” On hearing this, the moonbeam ran across the long dark water, drawing a line. All the birds, fish and, even, trees on the bank loved it. Later, the moonbeam penetrated an open window to tenderly touch a baby who was dreaming of a fairytale. The beam then played with trees’ leaves, helping a lost reindeer fawn to find its mother.
In the morning, it was tired but happy — returning to the moon to come back after the sun sets, to perform new deeds!
Mr. Shevchuk believes that, if someone publishes this fairytale, Misha ‘will be very grateful, since he has no opportunity to place it on the Internet’. The poet is thankful to all those who help create miracles with their own hands, and asks us to pray to God to help this small boy write more fairytales in his life.
We’ll also try to help Misha.
By Ivan Ivanov