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May, 2006 - Nr. 5


The Editor
Paul Bernhard Berghorn
Austria - 3 Mal 3
48 Years Club Hansa
Stuttgart - Best Loved
BMW Student Awards
Inventor of the Year
Water Report Flawed
Merkel on Aerospace
Moratorium on Deportations
KW & Beyond
Herwig Wandschneider
In Memoriam Concert
Meet the Europeans
Der April Vortrag
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Not German?
Off to the World Cup
Stratford Summer Music
Living Arts Centre
Evening with Chopra
Events at Harbourfront
ALOUD & Milk Festival
Rebuild to Former Glory
Berlin Academy of the Arts
A Bitter Heritage

A Bitter Heritage

SOS Children’s Villages works to improve
quality of life for Chernobyl’s young victims

OTTAWA: SOS Children’s Villages Canada National Director Boyd McBride says staff at the organization’s national offices can’t help but think about their colleagues in Belarus this week. "Every day they are grappling with the legacy left by Chernobyl."

Twenty years ago on April 26, 1986, a testing error at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine caused a core meltdown followed by several explosions. During the radioactive fire that followed and burned for 10 days, close to 195 metric tonnes of toxic matter was carried by the wind and rained down over large parts of Europe. Seventy percent of this radioactive material fell on Belarus.

Since it opened in 1995, the Social Centre at SOS Children’s Village at Barovljany, near Minsk, has been offering various forms of support to child cancer victims and families who continue to live in contaminated areas. Director Lilya Shestakova, recently reported that the Centre has helped close to 3,000 children for the past ten years.

"We have two main target groups," she explained." The first group is children who already have cancer or cancer-related illnesses, who get treatment in the neighbouring Children’s Cancer Clinic. They live in one of our SOS houses for up to one year," she said. "The second target group is the people who live in the contaminated areas - usually large families - who stay here for three weeks," she continued.

In addition to shelter and a homelike atmosphere, the SOS Social Centre offers families financial support to help purchase healthy food, social, psychological and health counseling. It also dispenses practical advice on completing financial aid documents and how to cope with the day to day demands of caring for their damaged children.

To aid in the recovery process, children at the SOS Social Centre who are in a transition stage are sent to the SOS summer camp in Caldonazzo Italy or to a summer camp in an uncontaminated part of Belarus. The SOS Social Centre near Minsk now serves as a model for other institutions designed around the idea that the presence of close relative enhances a child’s chance of recovery.

Ms. Shestakova says that the biggest challenge is to try to forget for awhile that the children are ill. "We must remember to regard them as simply children, not sick children,’ she says. "It’s also important to find an individual approach for everybody. "We keep in close contact with the families and children who have stayed at the centre," she continues. They visit us when they go for check-ups at the clinic, or they call if they have problems or something to cheer about."

Unfortunately for many families, there is very little time to rejoice. "We had a 22-year-old mother with her four year old child here," explained Ms. Shestakova. "The child stayed in hospital for a year. The generation that was born shortly after the Chernobyl catastrophe will now give birth to babies - unfortunately ill babies."

"I think for many of us, here in Canada, the time has slipped rapidly by and it’s almost impossible to believe that two decades have passed since that frightening day," said SOS Canada’s Mr. McBride. "In our own work around the world, we are well aware that the toll taken on families by disease and catastrophes like Chernobyl is enormous and children are always helpless victims," he continued.

Medical experts now warn that Belarus could be also be faced with a wave of orphans as parents, who were children during the years following the disaster, begin to die from related complications. According to Professor Vasily Nesterenko, Director of the Institute of Radiation Safety in Minsk, "Sick people cannot have healthy children. Ninety per cent of children were healthy in 1985. Now, only 20% are; this is according to the official statistics," he commented. "We have tens of thousands of youngsters who have damaged immune systems and who suffer from different diseases because of Chernobyl. This will be part of our lives for many years. It takes a minimum of 30-40 years for nature to renew itself. If nature is contaminated, then its products will be contaminated, which means more diseases for people and more trouble for children," he said.

With National offices based in Ottawa, SOS Children’s Villages Canada is part of the world’s largest orphan-focused charity, operating in more than 130 countries. SOS Children’s Villages provides long-term, family-based care to orphans and abandoned children, giving them security, support, education, training and the life skills to become active and involved citizens in their communities. SOS Children’s Villages also operates emergency and long-term relief programs around the world in times of war, crisis and natural disaster. At present there are two SOS Children’s Villages in Belarus, one SOS Youth Facility and two SOS Social Centres.


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