Everywhere We Go! – Belarus, June 2005 (Donation 11)

Children’s Cancer Hospital – Minsk, Belarus

Wednesday 8 June by Neil Macdonald

I am known to most who know me from the TAMB or games, plus I am part of the Sunshine Appeal Steering Group, but in my working life I am known as Neil McDonald who works for HBOS in Edinburgh. Anyway for the Belarus appeal I decided I would try to get some money for Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline plus gifts for the Children at the Minsk Cancer Hospital from my work colleagues. And I ended up with the task of converting my text for the HBOS intranet for Graeme’s programme.

For those not familiar with Sunshine Appeal project, the basic background is the collection is to give CCLL (http://www.chernobylchildlifeline.org ) to fund sending children in Belarus to summer camps with their class for three weeks which is where the Sunshine Appeal donation went to. In addition, CCLL do visits to countries like Scotland where the air is relatively clean. At the camps in Belarus there are spas, hydrotherapy pools, gyms, etc. as well as there being psychologists and physiotherapists to help the kids learn more about the effects of radiation poisoning and dealing with alcoholic parents and other such topics. It’s a scheme encouraged by the Belarusian government and since CCLL are one of only 2 recognised charities in Belarus they were asked their opinion. CCLL are trying to raise money to send the kids to these camps. They also receive their education at the camps. To most of us it might seem mad to go to the camp AND still have to do your classes, but education is top of the agenda in Belarus.
Only 5-10% of children in Belarus can be declared healthy and these camps can help the kids life expectancy.

Some facts and figures:

  • Belarus is the second poorest country in Europe (with 25% of its income being spent on cleanup from the Chernobyl accident)
  • No more than 10% of the kids in Belarus can be declared healthy
  • One month in a “clean air” community like Scotland can boost a child’s immune system enough that it adds two years on their life expectancy
  • 90% of nursing Mothers were giving breast milk that was radioactive
  • According to the UN, there is now a real threat to the gene pool of Belarus with second generation children even more likely to suffer side effects.

A week days later I had raised £550 for CCLL and had collected nine big bags of goodies from my works’ colleagues. Anyway Ally Wilson (aka 4WINSATWEMBLEY) of the Longforgan TA had arranged with Passport Travel to take his donation of goodies plus my collection of goods from my work over to Minsk on their charter flight from Glasgow. This meant a nice evening trip to Longforgan with a full car and on the Tuesday afternoon when I arrived in Minsk I got the word through that my bags were safely in the country. Many Thanks to Ally, Passport Travel and Gaynor (aka GMan) for their assistance in this.

On the Wednesday morning we gathered at the Hotel Belarus in Minsk, as I was staying elsewhere, I made my way there where I was greeted by the sight of people piling out of full lifts most of them with bags and dropping them in a pile in the centre of the lobby, this truly incredible sight was repeated time and time again over the following 30 minutes!!

30 or so people plus 100s of bags were loaded onto the bus for the trip out to the Cancer Hospital on the outskirts of Minsk. The British Ambassador for Belarus also came to meet our party in the Hospital. We were then able to spend some time in a theatre room with some of the children well enough to move, trying to give each of the children a basic set of toiletries, some toys, plus Cola and Irn Bru. Luckily for them being from Stenhousemuir originally, I couldn’t find my normal supply of McCowans Highland Toffee!

After the party had finished we then went for a tour round the hospital seeing the facilities, meeting the children, making sure each child got a donation of some sort, unfortunately due to the volume of goods we received it had to be taken in a room and it was impossible to pick out as much toys and sweets as we would have liked to hand out on the day. Fortunately every child that we saw at least got basic toiletries.
As for the cash donation, the entire Sunshine Appeal donation went into the development of the summer camps in Belarus. As for my HBOS donation, 50% of it went to the Central fund for the summer camps and the remainder went to the CCLL’s Edinburgh Link fund towards the cost of bringing the Children over from Belarus every summer.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, I certainly enjoyed being part of this and writing this.