Today most of us were delivering food boxes with the local Social Services Department. These are food boxes that have been purchased without a specific recipient in mind and are given out to those in most desparate need. The local Social Services group determines who they should go to and we split up into several vehicles each with a driver, a social services worker, an interpreter and 2 or 3 Canadians. Since these boxes go to the most impoverished people some of these deliveries can be very emotional and the recipients are usually quite overwhelmed that someone has come all the way from Canada to bring them some help. In most cases the fact that we show up at all is as important as the food itself.
The Stork is a native bird to Belarus and they return each spring much as the geese do in Canada. Of course we all know that their real job is to deliver babies! We have seen a few storks since arriving and today I managed to get a picture of one that had just taken off from it’s nest.
You can see the stork at the top of the picture and it’s huge nest on the water tower below. The nest itself is probably at least 4 feet (1.3m) across!
Many of our deliveries are to elderly woman and although the life expectancy is lower in Belarus we see a disproportionate number of older people as they tend to be in dire straits due to the small pension that they are given.
The woman on the right in the following photo is in her late 80’s and both of her daughters were with her when we stopped by. Fortunately she has the support of her family to help her cope, although she is still living alone.
Another of our deliveries was to a man in his thirties. His wife was killed in January when she slipped on ice in front of a car that could not get stopped. This left him alone to raise 3 children while still having to work at the same time. His youngest is only two!
We delivered his box to him at the collective farm where he was working getting this equipment ready for the spring.
My team consisted of Riley Shaw, Dan McKenzie and our interpreter Nina. Don’t let Dan fool you, those food boxes weigh between 60 and 70 punds!
At each delivery we open the box and our interpreter reviews the contents as everything is written in English.
Each box contains flour, sugar, pasta, rice, peanut butter, jam, tea, coffee, canned ham, tuna and chicken along with some soap and toothbrushes. I may have missed a couple of items but that is the majority of it.
We delivered to four elderly parents (3 women and 1 man) who are caring for intellectually challenged children who are now growing older as well. These families have rarely if ever seen any help from their government or otherwise and are very concerned with what will happen after they are gone. Most are completely overwhelmed with our visit.
The man on the right has an intellectual age of approximately 3 or 4 years old but is actually 50. His mother could not stop crying and thanking us for coming.
Although most of these seniors are still very active, many suffer from various ailments that can effect their mobility. Here are a few more pictures:
In every house the gardens were being prepared by starting the seeds indoors. Most window sills were full.
Another common sight in these homes is a small religous shrine of some sort. I am fairly sure it is due to the rural location making it difficult for them to get to a Church.
Our last delivery of the day was so far off the beaten path that the van we were riding in could not even get us close. The home is in the center of the following picture and once again we put Dan’s muscles to work!
When we finally arrived at the house no one would answer the door. It turned out the woman, who lived alone, was afraid to answer when she saw these strangers approaching her home.
Eventually the lady from social services was able to convince her through the window to let us in. Once she realized why we were there she was very greatful and thanked us repeatedly.
She was extremely stooped over and could not straighten up. However she walked us out to the gate and watched us all the way back to the van, waving all the way.
This was a long but very rewarding day that I know was repeated by the other teams. Of all of our work here, these deliveries can be the hardest but also the most memorable.