Thursday 6 December 2012

Do you have to make noise and smile widely? (OCC Belarus Day 2)

This is a question that the team here in Belarus have been asking ourselves since yesterday.

Tomorrow and Sunday we have two live webcasts (God willing) to transmit to the UK from a live Christmas shoebox distribution here in Belarus and what are the people back home expecting to see I wonder?  Hmm, I suspect they may be looking for children whooping, jumping for joy and beaming big smiles. So much work has gone on in the UK to help these 9000 odd boxes make it safely to Belarus that it would just be the icing on the cake to see how much they are loved.

However, I have a little concern, having now met a number of Belarusian children it is evident that children are far more traditional and reserved here (especially in front of adults and esteemed guests at that - yes that's us! lol), they are extremely well mannered and polite but quite distant at first too - not in a bad way, they just appear cautious and watchful until they know you a little better.

When I was in Ethiopia just two months ago I had to ask the local people if it was OK to hug the children or to lift them up as they literally throw themselves at you with open arms and want to be loved and feel affection. I do not have this dilemma in Belarus as the children maintain a distance and smile coyly if I catch their eye.

It would be easy to be fooled into thinking that Belarusian children have no sense of fun or joie de vivre but by chance yesterday, after we had spent time with a group of children at a social shelter and then gone for tea with the adults we asked if we could see more of the centre and we got taken unannounced into the older boys dormitory bedroom and there was the sight I wanted to see. All those children happy together, engaged in free play and chatting about their boxes and what they had received and what could be swapped.

It is not a great photo but you can see how natural the children are here interacting with each other.

Then today we visited a family home and again the children were quiet and appeared underwhelmed with their gifts, but then as we went upstairs for a quick tour we got to watch the children being natural with each other as all the foreign guests had gone (or so they thought) and this is when you see them really happy and at ease.

I pray you'll get to see some children on the webcasts who are able to relax and show you how much they appreciate the gifts you have given them. You can rest assured they will turn up in their best outfit (perhaps their only outfit) to make a good impression for you.

Just remember that if they look a little apprehensive or pensive it is because this is a very different occurrence for them to their everyday life and they have not been taught to embrace difference but to be aware of it.

Once the camera stops and we leave the room then the real fun starts for them and you have been part of that, thank you and God bless, Mich x

There is still time to make a shoebox online if you would like to - visit Shoebox World.
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