Bridges to Belarus
Bridges to Belarus is a small, UK-based charity which supports 800 children in the Rogachev region of southern Belarus, who are all affected by the Chernobyl disaster. Many experience medical consequences of the Chernobyl disaster but all suffer from the social implications and poverty that affects the region due to the radiation.
Bridges to Belarus was formed by Dr. Rachel Furley in 2003 whilst she was a student at Cambridge University, and she now works as a paediatric consultant in Suffolk. The charity is now run by a strong committee of volunteers in the U.K. and Belarus. Bridges to Belarus has several core projects which focus on providing a safe, happy and healthy childhood for the children whilst equipping them with the tools for their future.
We ensure that all children have a safe place to sleep, including a bed, a new mattress (second hand mattresses have an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome) and a secure home which is adequately heated and safe for the family. The families are also provided with a food parcel each winter, containing up to 30kg of basic food provisions and 10kg of cleaning/laundry supplies. These not affordable to most of our families without our support.
We also provide support with medical supplies as necessary, help with accessing medical services, ensure all children receive education every year and provide school uniforms and other school supplies. Once a year, we run English as a foreign language summer school project, with native English speakers to help the children who show aptitude for the language develop their skills and enhance their prospects for further education or employment. This has had excellent results for all the students who have attended the summer school.
Our most recent project has focused on domestic violence and this has been hugely aided by LRWMT. With unemployment and associated alcoholism becoming an ever-increasing problem in Belarus, domestic violence is estimated to effect 77% of Belarussian women in their lifetime – and is not currently a criminal offence in Belarus. We support women and children who have been affected by domestic violence and ensure their safety. We provide safe accommodation with furnishing, help with funding basic provisions for the family and provide childcare for women so they are able to access training opportunities. Counselling and group support opportunities are also offered to anyone who would benefit from this and many peer support groups have been formed. Our prime focus is in safeguarding children, which is absolutely key to enabling them to have a happy future.
For more information, please visit our website at www.bridgestobelarus.org.uk
Maxim, Yana and Kiril in the flat they are living in. We have furnished so it is now safe. They are cared for by their aunt as their mother works in Moscow.
Kiril who has a significant heart condition and we have supported him with various medical treatments and to access medical care.
Dr Rachel Furley (front, centre) – the founder of the charity with Natasha and her four daughters, who had to suddenly move in to an unfurnished flat, so we purchased beds and mattresses for all the family.