Thursday, June 30th, 2016
Suzanne Returns To Belarus PDF Print E-mail

August 2006: Vesnova Children's Asylum, Belarus

There isn't a day that passes that I don't think of the children of Vesnova, Belarus. How was their day today? Who is feeling good today?...Who rally needs a hug - and are they getting one? It's utterly painful sometimes....and that's why when I was asked to return in August, I did - one more time.

My friend and colleague, Michael Curtis joined me. We met Jen O'Dea there - it was like a little reunion from our first mission in October 2005.

Being that this was my third mission in less than 10 months, I felt very familiar with the place. I know where everything is, I sort felt a sense of "home" about it. I remember when I was there in Feb & Mar 2006, I was living in the asylum for a whole 2 weeks - that's a long time. I recall waking up one morning to the sounds of the kids marching down the corridor on their way to breakfast. I was having hard time remembering the sounds of waking up in my house in California. I thought, "So, this is what it's like to live here...this is what Vesnova sounds like." Vesnova is like that - it's saturating. The place is haunting - so full of the history young people with lives most cannot imagine. Now, as I wake up in my home in California, I can recall the a.m. sounds of the halls of Vesnova, and it's like having ghosts in the room. 

August was actually a really good mission. We accomplished so much. With the support of friends and family, I was sent to Vesnova with a lot of goods for the kids: clothing, shoes, sensory toys and tools and  medical supplies unavailable in Belarus. Some very generous donations helped with shopping sprees for the kids: school supplies were a big purchase. I've never walked into a store and said "I'll take all of these" - but this time, I did! Wow, what a feeling - and everything I was buying were for children that the townspeople see as unworthy of such things - strange, but true.

 Everything at Vesnova is rationed - from laundry detergent to  shoes to clothing and bedsheets. It's crazy: Each child is allotted one pair of shoes every two years (!!). So, it was a thrill to be able to distribute something that I knew they really needed. Oh, and to see some of them come out of dirty clothing - the same clothing they lived and slept in for a week! One little girl, Ola, asked if her friend could have a new shirt - not for her, for her friend. Of course, they both were given their choice of a new outfit. Ola is a doll and a sort of big sister to the other girls in Unit 2 - just across the hall from High Dependency Unit 5.

The sweetness Suzanne experiences is the feeling that fills her heart everytime she sees these children. In every one of their bright eyes, smiles, hugs, laughs and giggles, she knows that even in the grande scheme of our entire world, this may be something small and insignificant, but regardless how small a change it is, it is the growth of a new leaf as cultural paradigms shift and these children are finally viewed as the perfectly beautiful children they are - with thoughts, feelings, wants and needs like any other human being...and most especially, with more love to share than we can possibly imagine. 

It is every child's right to feel the sweetness sharing love for another human being provides. There is so much sweetness to be shared inside those asylum walls. Like with any children, all we have to do is be open to it, open to them - and our hearts will be full.

Suzanne will return from Belarus with a heart full of sweetness, indeed.

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