Belarus July/August 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

All visits to Belarus are special, some are great but this visit defied description regarding being with my friends, learning so much and building foundations for future projects and programmes. All of the discussed projects fall into the categories education, science and culture.

In this small report I will attempt to paint a picture of my experiences but more importantly to educate those who may not know where Belarus is and are under a blanket of misconception.

A Ray of Hope attempts to celebrate the positive as does this report.

Unusually my stay began with visits to the dachas of my friends - there experiencing the exceptional company, relating past experiences and eating the most tasty of food. Also enjoying  banya and been "well beaten" by oak branches in the interests of health. 

At the dacha, the letter from Prof. Alec Boksenberg, chairman of the UK's National Commission for UNESCO, to Anna Nikoliev the Director of the Art and Music School No 2 was translated and well received. The children and teachers  of Mozyr will continue to provide the paintings for the presentations for our National Commission conference and thank Prof. Boskenberg for his kind sentiments. In 2006 and 2007 the children's paintings from Mozyr were used as presentations from the UK's National Commission for UNESCO  to our visiting dignitaries.

Dacha listen  (Russian: да́ча) is a Russian word for seasonal or year-round second homes located in the exurbs of Soviet and Russian cities. It is usually occupied part of the year by its owner or rented out to urban residents as a summer retreat. Dachas are very common in Russia, and are also widespread in some former republics of the Soviet Union.

Banya (Russian: баня) is a traditional Russian steam bath. The banya is not as hot as the Finnish sauna, but what it lacks in temperature is compensated by pouring more water over the stones of the stove, creating steam and higher humidity. Studies have shown that the high-heat and method of producing steam in a Russian banya vaporises the water to a smaller particles, implying a more effective vaporisation, which is meant to impart a more pervasive heating than can be achieved with other saunas, and feels dryer than Finnish saunas

My last visit to the Mozyr Region had initiated discussions with the Ecological Centre and we were able to progress our projects for the forthcoming year. The Ecological centre is affiliated to A Ray of Hope and already involved with other global friends in a water project which will be part of our celebrations of World Peace Day in September. Children in Belarus,  Pakistan, Nepal, Brazil, United Kingdom and Nigeria ( and others) will participate in this joint project. Thanks to Pictorial Charts Educational Trust and Craigavon Discovery Centre we were able to furnish the centre  with educational resources on water, rivers, pollution and related topics. To the rear of the Ecological Centre they had developed the open air exhibits area and it had taken on a magical and  very calming aura. The Ecological Centre intend over the coming months to continue with the water project, develop a programme of study on flowers, commence forestry education and promote awareness of the dangers of HIV/Aids. Time at the centre made me ponder on the relevance of many of the ASP Net projects and now believe that a bank of more concrete and appropriate  topics should be considered to operate in tandem with those topic areas already nominated.

Nestled in the southern part of Belarus, in the Gomel Region, close to the border with Ukraine, is the jewel of a town called Narowlya, (pronounced similar to Narovlya). Several visits and excursions with the Mayor (Chairman) of the town, his deputy and other directors were both exciting and productive. Their desire to promote the UNESCO ethos, become involved with international issues, and in general develop friendships for the benefit of their inhabitants was both interesting and inspiring. In the months to follow there will be many more developments and news from Narowlya. Many aspects of these excursions will stay with me including the tour of the cultural museum,  the wonderfully dedicated curator Toya, of the Military Exhibits and the visit to the "forest of the partisans". I must proffer my thanks to all those who made by days in Narovlya so memorable.

The people of Belarus, are talented and enthusiastic and always proud of their achievements. They, as I have mentioned in previous reports, probably do not realise how good they actually are in global terms. 

The photograph galleries of  the Dance School, Kindergarten School 21 and Home for Little Children cannot adequately show the level of achievement but they do paint a common picture of much caring and endeavour.

Many new friends with much work now to complete.