On 21 April a concert for children suffering from cancer was held at the children's cancer clinic to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Hermann Gmeiner Mother and Child SOS Social Centre in Minsk, Belarus. Children who are staying at the clinic to battle cancer played games, sang songs and read poems before the concert. Various children's groups performed for the kids, who really enjoyed the diversion from everyday life at the clinic that the concert offered.
"Herman Gmeiner died of cancer 20 years ago, and ten years ago we founded the SOS Social Centre in his honor," said SOS Children's Village president Helmut Kutin. "Dear children, we support you, and there's one thing I want to say to you: you are not alone in this fight for your health."
In their speeches, some of the local authorities and friends of the centre remarked that the centre is celebrating its anniversary during the orthodox Easter. "The passage from the Bible 'love others as you love yourself' expresses the very essence of the SOS Social Centre - they care for people," said one of the speakers.
The director of the cancer clinic stressed the importance of the work SOS Social Centre is doing. "They are helping us greatly because children who do not have to stay in the hospital for extended periods can stay in the centre instead. That is a great help for us, the children and their parents. They can enjoy a pleasant atmosphere and concentrate on getting well again. We cannot forget the economic aspect, either; most of the parents could not afford to rent a flat in Minsk. I am very happy we have such great co-operation."
The SOS Social Centre presented its programme for the guests in the clinic's lobby. More than one hundred guests could read information about the organization, discover the different activities held by the centre and view an exhibition of drawings presented to the centre by the children who have stayed there.
Families who are currently staying in the SOS Social Centre participated in the celebration by planting ten trees around the centre.
Cornerstone laying in Mogilev
On 22 April dozens of little bells in the hands of cadets rang on 22 April at the cornerstone laying ceremony of the third SOS Children's Village in Belarus. The young cadets rang the bells as a reminder that nobody should forget the Chernobyl catastrophe and to emphasise that the side-effects of this disaster are still present in Belarus today.
"I bring many greetings from Austria and from the world, said president Helmut Kutin. We want to build a very special village here in Mogilev for Belarus." Mr. Kutin recalled the simultaneous events which occurred 20 years ago on the same day, 26 April: the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe and the death of Herman Gmeiner. He also declared that the village will be a place where people understand, support and love each other.
Mr. Kutin and the Governor of the Mogilev region officially laid the cornerstone. Construction of the village is expected to be completed by summer, 2008.
Nikolay Chrolovitch, the national director of SOS Children's Villages Belarus, remarked, "There is a need for this third SOS Children's Village as the situation in Belarus has worsened in the last ten years. According to official statistics, in 1995 (when we opened the village in Borovljany) there were 13,000 orphans in Belarus. Today, we have 32,000 orphans."
Mogilev has 365,000 inhabitants and is situated 200 kilometres southwest of Minsk. Mogilev is located approximately 130 kilometres from the Belarusian-Russian border.
There are currently two SOS Children's Villages in Belarus. In 1995, the first village opened in Borovljany (near Minsk); a second village, in Marina Gorka, opened in 2003. The two SOS Children's Villages provide a home for 157 children. SOS Children's Villages Belarus has two youth facilities, currently serving 25 youth. Four houses at the SOS Social Centre Borovljany accommodate people affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe. In the past ten years, the SOS Social Centre has helped 2732 children, including children who already have cancerous problems and get treatment at the neighbouring cancer clinic, or children who live in contaminated areas. There is also a family strengthening programme in Belarus, helping 148 families with 330 children.