Monthly Archives: March 2010

Whew! Finally!

We were so sure that we would receive our permission to distribute today that we made plans last night to meet at the school gym where all of the packages are.  However Dave called me first thing to say it was not happening and we should all meet at the orphanage instead.  This is extremely disappointing as time is running out and we have so much work to do.  Here are some of the group having tea and playing the waiting game.

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Because of the many programs we have in place as well as the success of the children, the orphanage has received a lot of attention lately.  The boys hockey team managed a bronze medal this season at the national level!  Quite a feat!  Government officials were so impressed that they bought them a brand new tractor to plow and sweep their outdoor ice rink. Of course it will be put to use in the agriculture program as well and here it is being utilized to sweep the winter dirt from the driveway.

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Spring cleaning is happening everywhere, the snow fences are being removed along the highways and crews of cleaners are out sweeping streets and will soon start painting fences, curbs and buildings.  Here a crew in Mogilev is sweeping the road.

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Since we were waiting I went with Jonathon (one of the Canadians) to Mogilev to help him purchase a laptop computer.  His family has been sponsoring a girl from the Chausy orphanage for many years.  Marina has been in Brockville many times and they continue to sponsor her in the Orphan Education Program.  She is currently studying computer programming at college in Mogilev but does not own a computer.  When we visited her at the college Jon presented her with a brand new laptop!  She was so excited she was shaking and on the verge of tears.  It was a wonderful moment and I know that she will put it to good use.  Here is Jon with Marina and her brand new laptop.

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Our driver, Valodya (most of the Canadians call him Bobby), was having some electrical problems with his car so we stopped at the local dealer.  A mechanic spent about 20 – 30 minutes solving the problem and charged him 2,000 Rubles.  May sound like a lot, but it works out to about $0.70 Canadian!!  I couldn’t believe it!  Ask your Canadian mechanic if he will look under your hood for a dollar!

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When we returned to Chausy we headed for the School gym in hopes that we would be cleared soon.  Our two firefighters had just returned from a very successful meeting with the Mogilev Fire Chief.  Troy and Kenny are doing a great job of paving the way for all of the wonderful equipment they will be delivering.

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Finally about 4:30 word comes that we are cleared to deliver the parcels.  This is a great relief to everyone and we all jump into action loading vehicles and contacting families for either pick-up or delivery.  Here Pat, Neil and Tracy check the inventories for the upcoming deliveries.

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The first truck is loaded and headed for the family of Sasha Krasikov, a boy who suffers from Brittle Bone disease and has been to Canada for treatment.  They live on a small farm and in order to get the parcels to their home a horse and wagon are hired to haul it from the main road as the mud is too deep for a vehicle to pass.  I was not there to get a picture, but apparently it was quite a journey which involved one Canadian hopping on one foot as his boot came off in the deep mud.  Here is the load leaving the school.

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On a personal note, my host family has a 15 month old son and they really wanted some good learning toys for him.  Everything I brought was a big hit and he tried his best to play with all of it.  I’ll let you judge the success by the size of his smile.

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A huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders and tomorrow will begin a series of very long and busy days delivering parcels and food boxes.

Eric McKenzie

PS:  If you are a subscriber and you miss a day, please check the website as I have noticed that the auto-notifier does not seem to be sending as many e-mails as usual and I have no way to check to see who has been informed and who has not.  You can always go back through any missed posts using the calendar on the right side.

Hurry Up and Wait!

Today was a tough day for the delegates.  We spent the morning sorting all of the boxes in the gym, narrowing it down from town or region to individual families and destinations.  We had hoped that we would be getting approval to release everything from bond and start delivering, but it did not happen.  Now we will have to wait until tomorrow morning at the earliest.  This means that the delegation ended up unable to do anything for the last part of the day with all of this work hanging over our heads!  The delegation starts heading home one week from today which really does not leave us much time to get everything done, so this is very frustrating.

As a result I took very few pictures (I promise not to let this happen again) but I have a few from yesterday to add.  I had mentioned all of the help we had from local people.  Here is a picture where you can see 3 of the Chausy Firefighters helping.  Most of us were in our T-shirts by the end so I can only imagine how hot these guys were in their coats and hats:

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Help from the “Invalid Family” organization comes in all ages. In this picture you can see 2 ladies working together carrying a box:

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I also mentioned that we had dinner in the Malcomson House at the Chausy Orphanage, here are a couple of pictures.  You will notice that we have included our interpreters and drivers in these celebratory, moments as without them we would be unable to accomplish anything. They are critical members of our team!

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It may be hard to tell from this picture, but at this point the boxes are completely organized so that we can find what we need very quickly:

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As I mentioned we are hoping to have approval to start delivering tomorrow as well as get the 3rd and final container unloaded.

Keep your fingers crossed and tune in tomorrow as we are hoping for progress!

Eric McKenzie

Containers 1 & 2 Arrive!

It would be easy for me to jump right in a talk about the containers arriving today and all of the work that was done to unload them, but it wouldn’t do any justice to the amount of work that it takes to get them to this point.  After careful loading and recording of inventories, there are hours (perhaps days) of work put into typing and organizing the inventories.  They must also be sent for translation and put into a specific format.  Dave then arrives in Belarus more than a week ahead of the delegation to start working with the various agencies to determine a receiver and bond locations.  After this, the work begins with Belarusian Customs.  The officers review the inventories and ask many questions as to the contents and final destinations.  Only when they are satisfied do they allow them to travel to Chausy to be unloaded.  Dave calls us prior to leaving Mogilev to make the 45 minute drive to Chausy.  We put out calls to all of our delegates as well as local volunteers and meet the containers at School #1. Here the customs officers inspect the seal before allowing it to be removed:

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Not only do we have the Canadian delegation to help, but also a group of students and staff from the orphanage, a group of the Chausy Firefighters, parents and family members from the invalid family organization as well as other family and friends.  Here Randy pulls one of the first boxes out to start the “bucket brigade” line into the gymnasium.

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Having the majority of the shipment packed in uniform sized banana boxes makes the unloading chore a lot easier for everyone.

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Inside the gym we do our best to get the boxes organized by final destination as they come in from the container.

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Tomorrow we will spend the day in the gym sorting the boxes by individual family and location and hopefully they will be released from bond in order to start the deliveries as well as allow local families to come in and pick up.  Our 3rd and final container is expected on Wednesday and then we will have only about a week to complete all of the distribution.

When we were finished, a tired crew of Canadians was invited to the Chausy Orphanage for dinner.  A real change for this year, they had set up tables and stools in the new “Malcomson Home” and served our dinner there.  This was really special for the Canadians and a very proud moment for Vitalli and the Orphanage staff.

There are only about 30 children (out of 105) at the Orphanage this week as it is their March break.  These are the children who have no relatives to go home to.  As we got out of the car some of the girls were playing with a skipping rope and it turned out to be Sveta’s Birthday.  Sveta is the girl on the left side of this photo with the red vest and she is 13 today.  All of the Canadians sang her Happy Birthday (Canadian style and in English) and she was grinning from ear to ear!  Lot’s of hugs were added as well.

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Sveta has Lukemia and had a bone marrow transplant donated by her sister a few years ago and she seems to be doing very well.  The reason she was brought to this Orphanage was due, in part, to many of the systems put in place by Canadian Aid for Chernobyl including a computerized nutrition program.  It was felt that they could control her dietary needs better here.  Her smile is a never-ending ray of sunshine and delegates take great joy in seeing her every time we get the chance!

Eric McKenzie

PS:  March 30, I just realized that this did not post yesterday but got stuck in my drafts … sorry about that!  Dial-up can be challenging.