Dave Shaw’s daughter, Riley is currently completing her final year of her Bachelor of Education at Trent University. As part of her requirements to graduate, Riley had to volunteer for 75 hours in an alternate practicum. She received special permission from Trent to complete this requirement in Belarus. Since her major is in Eastern European History with a focus on World War II, and given her families long association with this region through Canadian Aid for Chernobyl, this was a very good fit! With the help of an interpreter, Riley taught the grade 10 and 11 classes at the Chausy School #1 a segment on Canadian History.
This was followed by two of the students, Victoria and Alexandra, presenting
a segment of Belarusian history in English, called “Women. Destiny. War”. It was true stories of women from the Chausy area and their involvement in World War II
Riley spent some time also explaining the “multi-cultural” nature of our society in Canada which is in contrast to the very “mono” cultural nature of the Belarusian society. Riley was given the very exciting opportunity of meeting with five Belarusian war heroes from World War II. These men survived over 9 months on the front line!
To complete her 75 hour commitment, Riley spent a week with 6 girls from the Chausy Orphanage. They worked together on a “scrap booking” project which they referred to as “memory books”. Here is some information on this project in Riley’s own words:
I went to Belarus with the idea to create scrap books with these six girls. I brought enough books and supplies for each girl to make their own. I was hoping that this would not only create a positive bond between myself and the girls, but also allow them to look back on these books if they ever felt lonely or unhappy.
We spent several days touring around the orphanage and Chausy village, as well as traveling to Mogilev to the zoo and a WWII battle field to take pictures for the scrap books. I had envisioned that the girls would enjoy themselves when taking pictures together, but was happily surprised when I realized that they were also growing closer together as well.
We spent two days sitting around the table at the Malcolmson House creating our scrapbooks. The girls had a wonderful time looking back at the pictures and many laughs were shared at the memories.
On the Friday before I left, my Dad, Alla (our interpreter) and I took the group of girls to the Liga restaurant to enjoy a lunch together. The girls expressed how much the past week had meant to them, and I could see that it meant so much more to them, and myself, than just taking fun pictures around the village.
I walked away from the experience realizing that I had made a positive impact on their lives. Many of the girls would be leaving the orphanage at the end of this school year, and I knew that they would cherish the scrap book as they continued on with their lives.
Although I only spent one week in Chausy, I know that they will have those fun memories forever, as well as the scrap books to help them reflect on these times.
This definitely had a big impact on these girls as they are still talking about it several weeks later! We are all very proud of Riley, but of course none more so then her Dad! These girls have spent their lives growing up in an institutional environment and any happy memories of their youth that they can carry with them through life are absolutely priceless!