Hello, Friends of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice!
Today I glanced at my blog and was surprised to see how long it is since I updated it. One and a half months have gone by yet it seems that it was only yesterday that I was telling you our news. Time flies by so quickly, ups and downs follow one after the other in such rapid succession that there isn’t any time to celebrate the one or feel bad about the other. Nonetheless, the new year is a good time to pause a little and look back over what has been achieved.
By nature, I am a perfectionist and always feel dissatisfied with the work I have done. We still do not have a stable funding stream to support the Belarusian Children’s Hospice. This means that each month I have to make a huge effort to bring in sponsors, interest the mass media and find volunteers. If a grant application deadline is looming and I have to spend a lot of time on preparing our application it could mean that there will be a dip in current donations. If I spend more time working with private donors, then business donations fall. It is a bit like having a blanket that is too short. If you cover your shoulders, your feet freeze and vice versa… However, our monthly statistics show that in comparison with with last year there is certainly improvement (the figures are Belarusian roubles and the months of the year are on the horizontal axis starting from January on the left). One should take inflation into account which is currently running at approximately 9-11%.
 At 15 December 2009 £1 sterling = 4,624 Belarusian roubles
The Hospice is getting more and more coverage in the press. In the second half of 2009, there were 10 articles about us in the leading papers: Sovetskaya Belarussia (circulation 505,000), Va-Bank (circulation 211,000), Arguments and Facts (circulation 175,000), Komsomolskaya Pravda (circulation 59,000) and others. We have been on Belarusian television several times.
I would like to share a few thoughts with you about the mass media. My first experience of working with journalists on behalf of the Hospice was a singular failure. I spent a long time telling them about our aims, philosophy and principles and the result was an article called, ‘The House Where Children Die’. To say we were upset is to put it mildly. Unfortunately, until recently, this was exactly the stereotypical image that everyone in our country had. People were afraid of us and so they avoided us. I am doing everything possible to change this sort of attitude. I try to persuade people not to be scared of us. This is the first step towards being accepted by and receiving support from the public. So today, I am exceedingly careful how I work with journalists. I do not leave them until I am sure that they fully understand and are convinced of what we are telling them. It is for this precise reason that we are having an exhibition of photographs from 23rd to 17th December in Minsk’s Palace of Art. The pictures were taken by a professional photographer and they show Hospice children dressed up as their heroes or heroines from children’s stories. The children themselves chose who they wanted to be. Looking at these photos you would never believe that the children in them have serious medical conditions, they look so beautiful and happy! We want to use this exhibition to show that illness is not the end, one can be beautiful on the outside as well as on the inside, even when one has a serious condition.
Belarus is a country ruled by a strong government. This is why we are constantly trying to find ways to co-operate with governmental bodies. Maybe one day there will be a mechanism for non-governmental, non-commercial organisations engaged in socially important activity to work with and be supported by the government. We all have our fingers crossed. So far the Hospice has reached the stage that we are regularly invited to take part in round tables and seminars run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.
Christmas and New Year are the season for wishing each other well. Today, I can say with pride that this year we are sending our greetings to swelling numbers of people who joined us in 2009. This is a wonderful joint achievement! I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for your constant support of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice. May next year be even better than this!