In January 2018, a team of 14 individuals from Ireland flew to Minsk, Republic of Belarus in a mostly empty Russian rust bucket of a plane. In a land where suspicion of foreigners dies very slowly they were held for almost 4 hours by Customs. Their mission to bring Christmas to orphanages in Belarus, late being better than never.
Through an association with Tom McAneney, Stevey McGeown learned of the good work of IOPD, and their work supporting orphanages in Belarus, one of the areas worst affected by the Chernobyl explosion in 1986. Where social and economic deprivation is at record levels, the charitable endeavours of people like Tom McAneney provide a lifeline to vulnerable orphanages, where resources are extremely scarce.
As part of their initiative, the group decided that rather than purchasing supplies that may not be required, that instead, they would ask the orphanages what they needed. In addition, they would also ask each child what they wanted as a gift.
IRONS, BLANKETS & KETTLES & I’M 10
As Stevey McGeown explained what surprised the group was the requests that were coming back from the orphans. As Stevey shared –
“These are kids similar in age to my children and they were asking for blankets, irons and kettles. So we asked ourselves, “why do they want this?” and the reason became clear because they have no one to look after them outside the orphanage. And so once they come of an age to leave, that they must look after themselves. They understand this. They must understand this. They do not have the luxury of not understanding this, even at 10.”
Through hard work fundraising and generous support from individuals like Paul McCarthy & Mateusz Guzda, Marty Rafferty, Kieron Kelly, Vinty Firth and many, many more the group raised in the region of £45,000, and as everyone who contributed will be only too pleased to hear James McGrath of Team Stevey J share on video –
“We spent all your money!” approx £45,000
The group personally visited four orphanages and one children’s prison and contributed supplies to over 20 orphanages, helping approximately 1,000 children. Another thing that stunned the group was just how young some of the children were in the children’s prison, as young as 8 years old, and often for very low-level offences, a direct consequence of their poverty.
In a place where life is tough, and resources are scarce the children of Belarus learned that people do care. Whether face painting, playing games, sharing sweets or blowing up balloons the guys from Ireland showed up to make their lives a little better.
The team who travelled to Belarus and deserve a special thanks include:
Tom McAneney, Rosha McAneney, Misha McAneney, Stevey McGeown, Gareth Sherry, James McGrath, Kevin Young, Clive Power, Joey McNally, Sean Judge, Conor Lavery, Jonathan Doornenbal & Austin Gibbons & Noeleen Lavery.