Belarus Needs Ipswich’s Help


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Pictured are children living with congenital birth defects, directly linked to the presence of hazardous levels of Strontium-90 in Chernobyl-contanimnated counties.

Mya Cuevas, Journalist

Across the world in Europe, children in Belarus are suffering great oppression and discrimination. A portion of children in their teenage years face parental abuse, neglect, and poverty. According to UNICEF, “Five percent of children under the age of 14 are forced to work, and a high percentage is also forced into marriage before they reach adulthood.” In fact, at just sixteen years of age, children are considered adults and are left on the streets without a full education, supportive family, or income. Some children are also forced into human trafficking, as Belarus is a transit point for such activities. 

On top of the various problems mentioned, the offspring of the generation affected by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 continue to battle underlying health issues from radioactivity. The Chernobyl disaster has created medical issues regarding radiation poisoning, including birth defects. These helpless children and families of Belarus are struggling to survive while enduring horrendous circumstances. 

In trying to alleviate the devastation, the Interact Club of Ipswich High School has teamed up with a local group founded by Doug and Christine Brendel, Ipswich residents. The Brendels, activists for the children of Belarus, work with over 600 individuals and a few charities to raise funds for these suffering children. 

The President of the Interact Club, Kayla Laddin, and Advisor, Keith Harris (Rotary member), have introduced this international project to their fellow club members and IHS students. They are currently in the implementation plan for fundraising. Laddin explains, “Fundraising is a huge issue, and families are constantly in need of money because there is not much support coming from the government.” Raised funds will be used toward food, clothes, medicine, housing, school, and more.

A major component of this ongoing issue is little to no support for children in orphanages. Most children are left with no guidance once they turn 16 years of age and are expected to function in society without being educated entirely, financially stable, or healthy. 

SOS Children’s Villages International, a non-profit international developmental organization, says that, “Children who are most at risk of losing parental care are those with special needs and those who have been subject to abuse.” Battling these issues, children in Belarus still hope to attend university as they get older, but receive no guidance or support to survive on their own without the finances needed to do so. 

As of right now, the Interact Club is cultivating ideas and creating projects to raise funds in support of the children of Belarus. Laddin said that she and her fellow Interact members are hoping to fundraise soon and “provide materials and medicine for children suffering in Belarus, which will then be used to create care-packages by Doug Brendel and his team.” 

Harris stated that because the Interact Club is connected with Rotary, “In addition to the money raised, we’re hoping to be able to put together a grant project that partners with rotary, and may possibly connect to other Rotary clubs in Belarus.” Such connections may increase awareness on the existing issue in Belarus, and may help alleviate some of the problems even more so with a stronger and larger team. 

In the meantime, the students of IHS can help in making a difference as well. The student body may get involved with Interact Club, help fundraise, and spread awareness on the issue. Laddin believes that their contribution will truly help, and that “Every little bit makes a difference.”

The Interact Club preparing to discuss their upcoming project with Doug Brendel in support of the children in Belarus.