Children’s Shelter in Dzerzhinsk
Outside of Minsk, we visited a children’s shelter located near Dzerzhinsk, which currently houses 10 children. The director of this shelter was a very energetic, committed man. His love for the children was apparent in how he talked about them, showed us their various rooms, and explained the different functions of the shelter along the way. He had a great attitude in spite of the MANY challenges they face day to day. He had been the director of an orphanage that houses 200 children, and has been working with children for over 20 years. The government has recently started shutting down the orphanages, opting for temporary shelters and foster families instead.
The shelter we visited can house up to 14 children at a time, plus it offers classes and ways to help parents keep their children or get them returned to them faster. Alcohol is a huge problem in Belarus and the core reason children are not with their parents. There are psychologists and helpers who work through this shelter to help the parents be able to stay sober and provide for their children.
The shelter, an old two-story building, is also equipped with a crisis room for mothers and children. This room offers a few beds, toys, clothing and even a small kitchen and access to a bathroom and laundry. This room was provided by Michigan based, Direct Connect Humanitarian Aid, to give mothers and their children a safe, temporary place to stay in the case of domestic abuse.
The children in this shelter stay up to 6 months at a time, but their stay can be extended if their home situation hasn’t changed or isn’t yet safe for them. We met a few of the children while we were there and our kids played very well with the little girls.
We brought food baskets and desks when we went and through that, we were able to help several families, as well as the shelter.
A big thanks to DCHA, Olga Goncharenko, Steve Doty, Mike Harbour and the director, Vatslav’s efforts, for making this children’s shelter a safe place for these kids and families. We are excited to be able to work with them some more in the future.