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 the past Director of the Chausy Orphanage and is now the Director of Education for the Chausy Region.  We approached Vitalli to see if we could get some classroom space in the old school #1 to use as the new workshop.  This morning Vitalli dropped in to our Day of the Angel party to personally invite Irina Denisyenko to use one or two rooms in the former School #1 and he offered his complete support to her and her organization.  I watched as Irina listened to Vitalli give her this information and was moved as the tears rolled down her face when she realized that her dreams were coming true.  This new location and opportunity will truly integrate her children as they will be attending a real school and meeting and connecting with other organizations using this facility for sports training and creative arts.  Here are Vitalli and Irina shaking hands with Dave.

This great news carried us right into the party where we celebrate the birthdays of the children born in this half of the year.  It started with a puppet show from some of the older members.  Here they are after the show when they stage was stripped away for their bow.

We had several poetry readings, this one by Misha, the boy who tells his Mom he is going to “work” every day when he attends the social workshop.

This year the party was held at a large restaurant instead of the concert hall and it was a great atmosphere where I think the children and families had a real feeling of importance in this up-scale environment.

Of course, as always, they included the Canadians in the games.  Here CAC Treasurer Mike Waldron tries to knock David Campbell off of his wooden block.

Of course there are lot’s of beautiful little ones as well and they love the interaction and the games.  It was a great party and a great time for everyone involved.

At the end of our meeting with the Mayor, he told us that he felt the parents of these children were “Heroes” because they care for them in their homes and do not send them to an institution.  What a proud moment for all of us at CAC and all of our members and supporters.  To hear the Mayor say this was such an amazing moment and made us realize that we are truly making a difference and the change has begun!

Eric McKenzie

3 thoughts on “Making New Inroads … the Change has Begun!

  1. Paddy

    So pleased to see and hear how much Vitalli still remains “very much” in the picture; after moving on from his position as the Orphanage Director…….if you see him before you head back, please offer my congratulations to him in his new path in life as Director of Education for the Chausy Region – I wish him well, and thank him for me in finding a spot with space enough for the new workshop for the adults. God Bless You Vitalli. I hope to see you soon. Pat.

  2. Tania

    Eric,thank you for the time you spend documenting the trip. What a great story and such wonderful pictures! It’s almost like being there…. CAC has innumerable acts to be proud of.

  3. Margie

    This is just amazing work that you are doing to bring awareness, education and understanding to support the families and individuals with disability in this area. A challenge not only faced by those in Belarus but across the world.

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