Monthly Archives: September 2012

Making New Inroads … the Change has Begun!

This afternoon we had a meeting with the Mayor of the Chausy Region, Mayor Anatoli Matulin, to discuss the projects we had completed as well as our future initiatives.  He thanked us for the work that we do to help his community and he was really appreciative of all of our activity.  We were discussing our work with the families of invalid children and invalid adults and he told us that we had helped to change his outlook and attitude towards these members of his community.  Since for the most part, this group has been hidden and shunned from society it was not something that he had spent time thinking about, but our commitment to help bring them out and integrate them into society has caused him to stop and consider their place in in the community and he is very happy with direction in which we are all headed.

We were invited to participate in a round table discussion with various authorities as well as Irina Denisyenko, who heads up the Families of Invalid Children organization in the Chausy Region.  Our shared vision for this group is to help integrate people with disabilities into main stream society and help raise awareness in the community.  Reports from the past year were presented to discuss what worked and what challenges were faced.   It was amazing to hear all of the success they had with hand making and selling items at fairs and bazaars, and the pride that these children and adults felt at being involved in their community.  This “social workshop” is so important and we heard from two mothers, one who explained that her daughter, Nastia, told her every morning as she got ready to go to the workshop that she had to go to “school” and a second who’s boy, Misha, told her every morning that he had to go to “work”.  The improvement in self esteem is amazing!  The largest challenge was the news that they were losing their workshop space as the local Social Services organization needed it.

Here are some of the participants with Elena Pahomenko who chaired the meeting.

Later we met with Vitalli who is Continue reading

Dream Mountain’s Crisis Centre for Women and Children

After two years of planning, fund-raising as well as a lot of last minute running around and finishing touches we were finally ready for the Grand Opening.  This project is a partnership between the Chausy Administration, Canadian Aid for Chernobyl and Dream Mountain’s Foundation.  Unfortunately a high level of alcohol abuse has created a need for this type of shelter and we are proud to sponsor the first of it’s kind in this country.  A lot of negotiation was required to determine responsibilities between the Chausy administration, Social Services and CAC, but in the end all are satisfied with the arrangement.  Here our Mountain climbers (Shawn Dawson was unable to make it) who raised $30,000 are introduced to the the Mayor of the Chausy Region.  Additional funding was provided by our loyal CAC supporters.  From left are Timothy Ross, Stuart Spurrell, Bob Van Blitterswyck and Brad Speck.  It was so great to have them here to see the final result and realize the amazing long term impact they will have on the families in this community.

Outside a crowd gathered as we were entertained by a local music group playing
Continue reading

A Tiny Miracle in Slavgorod!

In December 2011 nineteen year old medical student Vika was in a devastating head on car collision.  The doctors did not think she would live and recommended organ donation to her devastated parents.  She spent a couple of days in a coma and the doctors said if she survived she would have no memory and basically be a vegetable with no hope of recovery.  This past March CAC was contacted by the Belarusian Department Humanitarian Aid to see if there was anything we could do to help this girl.  We sent a few members of our spring delegation to meet her and assess the situation.  It was realized that her greatest challenge was that she had no access to any kind of physiotherapy to help her improve her physical and cognitive abilities.  After returning to Canada CAC  decided that to bring maximum benefit to this girl we should bring professional help.  We selected Marla Ferguson, whose family has had a long relationship with CAC, as our choice.  Marla traveled to Belarus in grade 10 as a member of our delegation, now 12 years later she has degrees in both kinesiology and occupational therapy.  This trip Marla had a three hour session everyday with Vika, working with her and setting up a program and she also had electronic access to colleagues overnight.  Here is a picture of Marla with Vika.

Vika’s mother and father are amazingly supportive, they both changed their jobs (making less money) in order to work on opposite shifts so that one of them would always be home with her.  Vika has been amazingly receptive and works very hard on every exercise that Marla has given her and has exceeded her expectations. One thing that Marla felt was missing from her program was a method to do some cardio to get her heart rate up and recommended a stationary bicycle.  We managed to find one in a sport store in Mogilev and with a generous contribution from Marla we purchased it and delivered it on Marla’s last night in Belarus.  Dave, Murray (Marla’s Dad) and I were able to see Vika light up when Marla came in her apartment was well worth the 40 minute drive to Slavgorod.  This beautiful young woman was just beaming and smiling from ear to ear when she saw  the bike.  Right away she had her mother help her get on her sneakers and Marla helped her find a safe way to get on the bike.  Marla instructed her to start slowly so her muscles could learn the motion required, but Vika really wanted to go fast from the start.  This girl is so motivated and exudes such a positive energy that it was hard not to get caught up in her enthusiasm.  Previously Marla had suggested using the stairs to help her in her development but her parents were adamantly opposed to letting her try this due to concern of her falling and hurting herself.  However, Vika’s trust in Marla outweighed her parents concern and her father beamed with pride as he told us that she completed 3 sets of stairs, up and down that day.  Her mother could not stop thanking us for everything we had done.  Here is a picture of Vika on her new bike with her Mom, Dad and Marla.

It is hard to believe that a girl who has been through so much can have such a positive attitude and outlook and I am so privileged to be able to witness this kind of life changing experience.  I can’t wait to come back in March to get another “fix” of Vika energy!

Eric McKenzie