Teamwork, Training and Tugging!

I have spent most of the last two days helping Stephen MacKinnon with his Internet Project at the Chausy Orphanage.  I now know, without a doubt, why he received the Prime Minister’s (Canada) Award for Teaching Excellence!  Stephen is amazing, both with his ideas as well as his ability to motivate the children!  He gives gentle direction and makes suggestions, but allows the children to make their own decisions and shape the projects so that they are truly their own.  Here he is in discussion with some of the students:

Here are some of the groups of students working on various components that will make up the website:

There are two main projects, the first is an internet website for the Chausy Orphanage where they can post pictures and stories of the many successes of the students as well as a section on life at the orphanage. The second is connecting the orphanage to an existing network of schools all over the world.  This connection allows students not only to communicate with each other, but also to collaborate on projects around the world.  The first step in this is to set up each of the children with a special e-mail address that is only used within this network.  Stephen has already connected the grade 9 class here with a grade 9 class at Athens District High School in Ontario.  Here is Stephen sitting with one the students, helping her send the first e-mail response to a student in Athens:

One group of students is also working on a “Surprise” project that required two trips to Mogilev to make some purchases.  This experience itself was very educational as the students had to get costs, calculate the requirements and complete project cost, then order the materials and complete the financial transaction as well (and we all had ice cream afterwords … but don’t tell Dave).  Here is Stephen with this group of students at the store in Mogilev:

All in all this an incredible project that will be a first!  Certainly the first orphanage with it’s own website and the first school with a website in the region, and most importantly I would guess that it may be the first student run website in the country.  Of course the staff are directly involved and will have to approve all content, but the students are getting the opportunity to find the stories, take the pictures and write the articles themselves.  One of the girls told me that she is considering a career in journalism … she will now have the opportunity to try her hand at it and determine if it is what she wants.  The site itself will help raise the status of the orhanage and the children’s successes can be celebrated by everyone, including some of their biggest fans in Canada!  I will post a link to the site once it is up and running and include a link on this website.

Another sport program that is very popular at the orphanage is biathlon.  This program is growing every year and it got a real boost during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when a man from Chausy won a Silver Medal in Biathlon, that’s right, not only was he from Belarus, but he was from the little village of Chausy.  There are currently two students from the orphanage training for the junior Olympic team!  The Director took the entire delegation for the trek through the back fields to the Orphanage Training site where the students were training. Here are some of the team practicing at the range:

Yes, the targets are very small and very far away, each of the large white rectangles has 5 black dots about 4  inches across:

Here are some of the team members:

The pride an confidence of these children was amazing.  It goes to show the value in these types of programs that help to find the talents and gifts of each child.  This next picture is of a girl named Kristina, who has been to Brockville for summer respite, and now is training for the junior Olympic team!

Since there is no snow this time of year they train by running instead of cross country skiing between target shooting.  The Canadians were all given a turn to try shooting at the targets.  Although many were successful at hitting the targets, we were not required to run between shots nor were we under any pressure to shoot quickly!  After we all gave it a try Kristina showed us how it was done, quickly, efficiently and accurately!  Here is a picture of Yanna giving Dave Shaw some instruction.  Yanna is 13 and has been training for the Biathlon for 4 years:

After thanking the athletes and watching them jog off for the several kilometer run back to the orphanage, we discovered that one of our vehicles had gotten itself very stuck trying to turn around:

It didn’t look like we would budge it!  Then a rope was pulled out and attached to the hitch and we learned the true power of teamwork as we dragged that van back about 2 feet!

Of course any of the children in Stephen’s group this week could have predicted that outcome!

Eric McKenzie

PS:  Since I have focused on Stephen I will pick on him one more time.  Stephen is staying with Larissa, one of the cooks at the orphanage, and like most of us his biggest problem with the food is the quantity our hosts try to feed us.  Tonight we ate dinner at the orphanage and Stephen would not let them clear his plate until Larissa came out to witness how thoroughly he had cleaned it!  Larissa was suitably impressed … but I bet she still tried to feed him when he got home!

8 thoughts on “Teamwork, Training and Tugging!

  1. Jane Beall

    What a wonderful story! Congratulations on all your excellent work. Our Chernobyl children from the first group of children, twins Natasha and Oxana from Gomel, are now 30 years old. They first came to Canada at 11. We had a visit from Natasha last month. These connections can last a lifetime. Again, great work!

  2. Johan Stroman

    I’ve had the great fortune to work with Stephen on a few environment education projects in Canada. He brings a fun, open, and collaborative spirit to all his work. I’m awestruck at the diverse and very powerful ways he engages youth and adults alike. Congratulations Stephen! Inspiring to witness the passion and great talent you bring to your calling as an educator!

  3. Annis

    Great to see the computer programme being set up & what an opportunity it will be for these kids. It’ll bring them into the 21st century & enrich their lives & talents. Great job Steve. (Yah Ken – keep the gun away from Dave!!!!)

  4. connie lou sebast

    I never cease to be amazed at the new ideas and knowledge possessed to empliment them. i barely know how to send and retrieve emails!!

    It makes me proud that I was born in brockville ontario.

  5. jeff earle

    as usual all you guiys are making us proud . the group and daves endless enthusiasm always amaze me . enjoy the trip and be ever so proud of what your doing / jeff

  6. Nancy Grundy-OVACC

    Great work, my hats off to all of the Brockville team. All you work is so important and I thank each of you giving your time and energy to make such wonderful changes in the lives of these children.
    Thank you.

  7. Nina

    I’m so proud of you all!!!! So happy that everuthing goes well!!!!
    And nice to see that kids are smiling!!!!

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