Before I came here I hooked up with a lady who has been on an OCC distribution trip to Belarus in the past and I asked her if she had any advice for me. She said not advise really but just be aware that when she showed her pictures on her return home everyone said 'they do not look poor' and she is so right. Very often the children here do not look poor..... but we all know looks can be deceiving, right?
At the moment in Belarus the snow is about 6-8 inches deep and it is -5 degrees, I think we would all agree that means every child should have at least a thick, warm coat and a pair of good boots. What they also have is probably a couple of outfits, one to wear and one for best. The best one might have been worn and outgrown by dozens of children before them but it still looks nice as it is cherished and looked after. The Belarusians I have met may be poor but they are also proud and keen to present a good image.
Take a look at Eger and his little brother Vladik, they do not look too poor do they? No holes in their jumpers, their clothes appear to fit, their hair is tidy - they must have enough money in their family, right?
Shall I show you where these two beautiful little boys live?
These pictures will paint quite a different picture for you and you'll see why a shoe box of small and insignificant (to us) items mean such a lot to these children.
I couldn't have made that up, could I? The back of their house has literally fallen down and the inside is not a great deal better. Leonora, their mother cooks in a tiny, cold thin wood outhouse with a peeling ceiling.
My message to anyone reading this is to not judge a book by its cover. Just because a family wish to present a good front does not mean that all is well and they are trying to decieve you into giving when they do not require it.
You also have the other side of things to think about as well..... is poverty just about a lack of money?
Or could it be a lack of love or a lack or spirituality as well? I certainly think it can be both of those things too.
I have been to two social shelters since I have been in Belarus and both of these have looked really well maintained - they had nice rugs, toys for the kids to play with, ample heating and lots of room to run around outside but what they do not have is parents, people who love the children and will be there forever for them. Don't get me wrong, they have superb staff from, what I have seen but the children only stay there for six months whilst longer term solutions are sorted out. I would call those children poor too, despite them being well dressed, like this -
I hope you will give this post some thought and if you feel compelled visit Shoebox World where you can still make a shoebox online for as little as £12.60.
Go on, make a child's Christmas....
And for those who asked, here is my day 3 update soundclip -