I was sorting out some of my files and photo albums at home when I came across a folder where I had recorded a visit to Belarus with members of the team from Chernobyl Children’s project back in 2005. I can’t believe it was over 10 years ago now! The recollection of the visit plus the desire to promote the amazing work done by the team has led me to write this blog.
At the time, I was headteacher of Rodney House School in Manchester and one of the privileges I had was to have developed a relationship with Linda Walker , the National Co-ordinator who had brought several groups of influential dignitaries from Belarus to visit the school and see the work we were doing with our pupils with SEND. This included the person in charge of SEN in the Ministry of Education, groups of staff from children’s homes, the Director from the home for abandoned babies in Gomel including a senior staff responsible for training. There was such a strong will to make positive changes in the area of working with children and young people with SEND and we know it was having an impact because of the letters we received following the visit e.g.
“Titania has gone home full of ideas of how they can improve the care and education for children at the abandoned baby home”
I was really honoured when asked by Linda if I would participate in a visit to Belarus to share my expertise. As well as visiting various schools and orphanages I also was to be given the opportunity to speak at an international conference in Minsk , spend a day with members of the early years team visiting children out in the community and participate in interviews for the staff for the Mayflower centre which was to be the established as the first respite care home in Gomel.
The week was a busy one filled with a range of emotions as you can imagine. I have such admiration for the children, their families, for those that were and still are working so hard to improve things for the children in Belarus – the children with SEND and the children with cancer. The work that the Chernobyl Childrens’s project does is amazing and I would urge you to take a look at their website to find out more about their work and support in what ever way if you can.
I met and had the chance to spend time with some very special children:
Speaking at the conference in Minsk was an ‘interesting’ experience ! Not least having my presentation simultaneously read in Russian! Things have moved on a lot , it was over 10 years ago, however I faced lots of challenges from the ‘medics’ in the auditorium at the time about the educational value of working with children who had such significant learning difficulties and indeed being taken to see the ‘cot children’ in the orphanages even now brings a lump to my throat.
Like I say though it was over 10 years ago now and such will to change. As a strong advocate for our pupils with SEND and a supporter for UNCRC Receiving a letter like this says it all and made my day:
UNCRC: Article 28. The right to education – ‘after her visit completed work on a new law which entitles all children to an education what ever their level of ability’ #result!
Interviewing for the Mayflower Centre was a blast and how privileged to have a big role in appointing staff for the first respite care home for children and their families!
I had an opportunity to spend lots of time at Rodni Kut which was the first care home established by Chernobyl Children’s project – I took Rodney House t-shirts out for the children who had moved in to live there. Again, in terms of an honour and privilege – there can be no greater than receiving a letter like this:
“Whenever we have brought visitors to your school they have been greatly impressed by the happy atmosphere, the high standard of care and education and the obvious dedication of all the staff. When we created our first home for children with special needs we were trying to think of a suitable name for it. One of our Belarussian friends suggested ‘Rodni Kut’. In Russian this means ‘cosy corner’ but to us it is now ‘Rodney House’ and we hope to model the care and education as much as we can on what you do at your school.”
I have so enjoyed looking back through my file of leaflets, photos, letters and re-living some of the memories. The work of Chernobyl Children’s project still goes on however and I for one will be continuing to support them.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I know what I did was a drop in the ocean to the hard work done by the team at Chernobyl Children’s Project but I’d like to think I did my little bit and I thank Linda and everyone involved for allowing me to be a part of the bigger story.