Today is the first day of school after the spring break. Cathy Boone and I headed to the Kostukovichi Orphanage to deliver a few boxes along with quilts made by local quilters, many of whom belong to the 1000 Islands Quilt guild. It is about a two our drive that took us through the exclusion zone created by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Speaking with the Orphanage Director, Valleri, we discovered that more and more children are being taken in foster care and the population of the orphanage is decreasing in this region. One result of this is a disproportionate number of boys in the orphanage. Families tend to prefer to take in girls over boys. One of the classes that we met had 11 boys and no girls!
Here a group of boys each select a quilt.
These quilts are lovingly hand-made by a group of quilters in the Brockville area. Every quilt is unique just like the children that receive them and we explained this to the children before they picked their own. Here a group of boys proudly display their selections:
Living in the orphanage environment these children have very few personal belongings, but these quilts are theirs to keep forever. A treasured gift as evidenced by the smiling faces.
While we were there, Valleri took us for a tour of a room where they display their woodworking projects. They have an amazing teacher who has the children look for the natural shapes in pieces of wood and then find ways to work this into their projects. Here is a picture that was made by one of the children:
Here is a cat on a hot tin roof:
Cathy and her husband Byron sponsor a girl who lives at this orphanage and of course we sought her out for a visit. Here are Cathy and Nastia in the orphanage yard:
On the way home through the evacuation zone I snapped this picture from the van. The sign notes a town that used be at this location prior to the Chernobyl disaster. It has since been evacuated and all of the houses bulldozed and buried to keep people from returning and taking radioactive material home outside of the zone.
Here is an empty apartment building that still stands, completely vacant and slowly being overgrown.
We noticed that someone was doing some work in one of the many cemeteries in the zone. Although not many visitors come to these cemeteries, it is nice to know that they are being maintained.
When we returned to Chausy we met up with some other delegates at the Chausy Orphanage. Here a seeder is being prepared for the upcoming planting. We delivered a new cultivator from the Ridgetown group and the seeder was being adjusted to fit.
As promised, here is a picture of the new greenhouse completed and ready for planting!
Cathy Boone had brought some knitting from a woman from the Brockville area and managed to hand out some hats and mitts to the children at the orphanage. Here are some of the children showing off their new hats.
We are nearing the end of our mission here and several of the Canadians will leave tomorrow followed by more each day this week. There are still quite a few loose ends to tidy up and I will continue to give you updates, but we are definitely winding down. I apologise for not getting you pictures and updates on the fire fighters progress but they have been taking care of that part of the initiative on their own. I promise to bring you pictures and stories after I return to Canada. I can tell you that they have been extremely successful, not only in bringing knowledge and tools to this region, but also in making friends and even picking up a few ideas to bring home to Canada! Today the first truck was delivered to Mogilev and the fire fighters spent a full day there. Paul Asmis will be staying until the end of the week to complete the hands-on training portion.