Recently the families of 26 children with disabilities from Grodno, Belarus spent a memorable nine days at the Kupalinka recreation camp on a break funded with support of the Empress Shoken Fund. The integration camp organized by the Belarus Red Cross for the second year running provided children with various disabilities the opportunity to play, learn and rest, while also giving their families a short period of respite.
The campsite at Kupalinka, which is close to Grodno city, was chosen because of the facilities it has available to make a ‘barrier-free’ holiday a reality. For many participants, Kupalinka provided the first – and sometimes only – opportunity for a family holiday. For the children, the holiday featured a familiar assortment of activities including swimming, discos, entertainment and contests; while parents had an opportunity to rest and take part in first aid workshops and psychosocial support sessions.
At the opening ceremony for this year’s camp, volunteers gave presentation on the 150th anniversary of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, and participants read out letter written by those who attended the first camp – with support of the Norwegian Red Cross – last year. The ceremony was attended by Elena Beresneva, a Deputy of the National Assembly of Belarus. She said she hoped all the families and volunteers at the camp had a good rest over the nine days.
During the week, families took part in races, including a cycle race with bikes specially adapted for children with cerebral palsy and other mobility issues, and also watched a demonstration from professional dog handlers which showed how the dogs are used in the search for drugs and explosives.
The visitors from Japan were also able to learn about the culture and history of Belarus from the children at the camp, before the children took part in a quiz to show what they knew about Japan.
Yoshiko Imaizumi, a senior research fellow at the Meiji Shrine Research Institute said she was impressed with the work done in the camp and especially with the atmosphere. “I was fascinated by the fact that not only children but their parents and volunteers show their commitment. It is obvious that they enjoy time here and I like it very much,” she said.
Inessa Larionova, project coordinator, Grodno regional branch of Belarus Red Cross said: “Our guests are very open and dedicated. In general it is very interesting for everyone, not only for children but also for their parents, because Japan is a quite faraway exotic country for us, and everything related to this country arouses interest. But people are same everywhere; it is important when they have a warm and feeling heart.”
Next year a book about all projects organized by the Empress Shoken Fund will be published in Japan, and will include information about care for children with disabilities in the Grodno Integration Camp.
For the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement contributing to the social inclusion of people with disability is a priority, as reaffirmed in last month’s statutory meetings in Sydney, where 189 National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, as well as the IFRC and ICRC, came together to take strategic decisions for action. Read more.