Neil’s GAP Trip – September 29, 2007

Neil Matheson, Coordinator of the Guardian Angel Program, traveled to Belarus with Dave Shaw, Director of Humanitarian Aid, in late September for his semi-annual visit and follow-up with “our” families over there. Neil was kind enough to send me his “notes” which are in a diary type format. He has also supplied me with his pictures so I decided to post a few blogs. Neil is an amazing guy who has a real passion for helping others. The Guardian Angel families are all families with an “invalid” member and as such are mostly shunned in their society. These are extremely deserving families and Neil visits and rates them all as to level of need and lists things that they can use so we can try to bring it in our spring delivery. The text will be all Neil’s except where I insert an “Eric Note:” in italics. I will post all of Neil’s notes from this trip over the next week or two.


Wednesday, September 26th , Thursday, September 27th
Carolyn and I drove to Ottawa together after she finished work at the college. Stopped at Home Depot for a hug from Heather and arrived at Airport, parked and checked in. No problems at all but was surprised about baggage in Frankfurt (having to claim it out of the airport for the overnight stay). Flight took off on time and business class was a real treat – Arctic Char and asparagus tips. Transfer in London had a major delay because of a storm in Frankfurt – high winds shut down two landing strips. This was no problem because I was staying over. Nice hotel – thanks Jackie – great breakfast. Flight to Minsk was packed. We traveled with the Belarusian weight lifting team and a handball team from Portugal.

Friday September 28th
Arrived at Minsk airport where Volodya Kulukin (Bob Kul) and Olia Valkovich are waiting for me – wow what a nice greeting – two great friends. We left the airport and headed for Chausy making a detour to Bihov to meet with Olga (setting up adoption of Dima). Made calls to Director of the Orphanage near Glusk and Rita Kuntikova. Everything looks ready but we were unable to connect with Director – probably Monday.
Home to Chausy – wonderful to see Larisa and Sasha. Vodka toasts, mashed potatoes and chicken then unpack and off to bed.

Saturday, September 29th
Dave called and, of course, we’ll start the visit off with a stop at the orphanage. We arrived at the orphanage to see the outdoor hockey rink being graveled and leveled by the new tractor.

Tractor working on new rink at Chausy Orphanage

Kids at Orphanage

Great to see the kids and great crops of cabbage, beans and carrots.

Feild of Cabbage

Irina Denesyenko through Olia Valkovich and I spend the afternoon going over the list of families and the needed visits for this trip. This is a major job. We discuss forthrightness and equality to all where ever possible. Olia and I visit Voityehova family then we’re joined by Irina to visit Maria Nahayeva, Yeleana Moyeseyenko, Kolya Knyazhev, and Dima Borisov.

Voityehova Marina 7/12/74 Visited Saturday, September 29th the whole family is coming and going from the banya.

Voityehova Family

Lyuda is overjoyed with the visit and loves the pictures that Diana has sent. She goes over each one and then redoes it with Marina.

Lyuda showing Marina the pictures

We stayed for coffee and had everyone there but the older grandson. She wants to send Diana a telegraph on her birthday. This is a great spot for bunk beds that were spoken of for the two boys – photo taken of the prespective spot.

Location for bunk-beds

Marina has had a very healthy summer with vitamins and lots of fruit thanks to the extra money sent for the family. No family has corresponded more with their sponsor than this one.
Needs: Bunk beds

Nahayeva, Maria 07/10/04


Visited September 29th we woke the family up at seven in the evening when we arrived. Maria has had terrible stomach pain and is receiving “expensive” medication and hopes we can compensate the family for the costs. We decided on a $400 amount that would allow the family to easily cope with the other costs. We review our expectations of each family in the program: that being ask for assistance only when the amount is beyond their means. Know that Irina writes to me, and we collaborate on decisions where necessary and finally; be thoughtful of Irina by asking clearly once and then not hassle with many calls of the same request with the hopes of breaking her down. Oxana will receive the $400 at the party on Wednesday, October 3rd.
Needs: Party clothes, diapers

Moyeseyenko, Leana

Visited September 29th we find Mom and Dad home with Yeleana.

Yeleana and her mom ... Valentina

Visiting on banya night is their son, Kolya, his wife and their daughter Dasha.

Valentina with her son Kolya dn his wife and daughter with a friend

She has a small bike that is way too small. A girl’s medium bike would be a great gift. Yeleana has been much stronger since our last visit. Valentin (mama) suggests that the vitamins and by using the extra money to buy fruit this summer (it is Eric McKenzie’s Shorewood Employees group) has had a wonderful impact. They plan to buy an electric heater closer to winter. Kolya also requests that I pass on his thanks for the help and care given to his parents. He was extremely touched. Pampers for 45 kg. much needed – this would be a huge gift. They also loved the flour and seeds.
Needs: no longer a member of the organization to we need to pack everything for this family. Rolls of pampers and wet wipes.

Knyazhev, Nikolai (Kolya) 06/08/76
Visited on September 29th we found Lidia and Kolya both home.

Lidia and Kolya

Lydia has had some heart trouble this time and has passed out while working on her house many times – she always goes at quite a pace. Kolya was our tour guide of all his “projects” since our last visit. He is very proud of his scale drawings, his leggo buildings, and his models made out of boxes and paper rolls.

Kolya and his drawings

We had a good discussion about Kolya’s 41 year old brother to see how on-board he would be with Kolya should Lidia die. Will return with David Campbell if time permits.
Needs: LEGGO and more LEGGO

Borisov, Dima 2/12/2000
Visited September 29th we arrived the family is just finishing their Banya.

Home from the banya

We had a most delightful visit with everyone at home. Dima, now seven has had a great summer and start to the fall. He attends regular classes at the school and is doing well in writing numbers and letters and particularly likes the toys at school – especially the motorcycle.


Natasha now has a job at the post office as a cleaner. Dima’s progress in oral speech has been steady and parents and all congratulate him on his progress.
Needs: Box packed by WSUC Sunday School

Home by 9:30 to start writing up the day.

1 thought on “Neil’s GAP Trip – September 29, 2007

  1. Kate Van Dyck

    Dear Eric,

    Enjoyed the notes and photos from Belarus! Our program in Virginia continues to grow. I have shared your website with the host families and many have commented on the scope of your group’s incredible generousity and effort!

    An old friend of David Shaw’s, Pavel Shidlovsky sends his regards to all in Canada. He works in the Embassy of Belarus in Washington, DC and has been a great help to our program over the last few years. He speaks very fondly of his time in Canada.

    We are working on starting an orphan sponsorship program to extend our efforts to children unable to come on respite trips. Your group’s work is an inspiration to us all!

    Take care,
    Kate Van Dyck
    Children of Chernobyl Host Parent
    Alexandria, VA

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