An ongoing initiative for children with disabilities in long-term care

A country-house for children in long-term care

A country house for children

For several years, Nun Martha has led the initiative of Saint Elisabeth Convent to build a summer house for children with physical and mental disabilities. They children are patients of the long-term care institutions where our lay and monastic sisters are pursuing their ministries. The Convent has purchased the land, put up the walls and built the roof. Recently, we passed a key milestone: a team of volunteers completed a furnace inside the house.

We asked the participants in this initiative to tell us more about it and describe its impact on the lives of the children and everyone involved.

A-country-house
A-country-house
A-country-house
A-country-house

Nun Marfa: “we give the children the warmth of the home”

The people behind this initiative are not just the brothers and sisters of our Convent, but also the staff of the institutions, to whom we also offer spiritual guidance. Before the long-term quarantine restrictions, the residential care facilities were open to visitors, and we often took the children on day trips. However, we always had to keep these trips short: we did not have the amenities to make the children comfortable. During the warm season, we experimented with longer trips to our summer camp close to one of our farmsteads. But the conditions were inadequate to meet the special needs of these children.

When we were on a visit to Germany with the theatrical production "The Little Prince", a friend invited me and the actors - many of whom were children with disabilities from the care facilities - to stay in her house. We were impressed by the magnitude of the change in the children in the atmosphere of a home. From that trip, we brought the idea to build a rural summer house for disabled children from residential care facilities in Belarus. The children benefit immensely from the loving atmosphere and warmth of a rural home. So we set out to building it.

We hope that each detail of its interior and exterior design will make their stay comfortable and enjoyable. Its large verandah will be a comfortable place for resting in the sun, and spaces inside and outside the house will serve studios for the practice of applied arts. The children can spend their days here, and even stay overnight. We expect this experience to change the lives of the children and warm the hearts of those who spend time with them.”

builders
builders
builders
builders
builders

Andrey, leader of the team of builders who completed the furnace: "our furnace is our sacrifice to God and the children"

“Our work took three full days to complete. I led the team and built the chimney.

All the team members work at the Guild of Stove Setters cooperative. All are professional builders and generous and kind-hearted people. Normally, they work on expensive projects, but here they are all volunteers. Nun Marfa approached us and asked us to help, and we were happy to respond.

My wife and I always teach our children that it is not good to live our lives only for ourselves. We have two sons. My oldest son is now 15. When I volunteer for others, I try to bring him with me, even when he would have to miss school. Sometimes, when he is reluctant, I use my parental power to insist on him coming. I want my children to be moral. Good works give us the energy to live. They fill our lives with meaning and make us less ego-centric.

"I am extremely pleased that our work with the Guild of Stove-layers has been so productive," says Nun Marfa. "The people in the team have travelled from different parts of Belarus to do this job together. I hope that this experience will become their source of inspiration and provide an example for others.”

Nun Marfa
Nun Marfa
Nun Marfa
Nun Marfa
Nun Marfa

Nun Marfa: "Our experience has taught us to trust God more and not despair"

We consider our experience as a lesson in trusting God. We tend to rely too much on our capabilities and feel bitter when we fail. But God is close, and He can help us, too, by sending us volunteers or donations. At one stage, we were experiencing difficulty finding builders. The Lord intervened, providentially. He sent us Vasily and his team.

Vasily has direct experience with disability. When one of his children became disabled, he had to retire from military service and become a builder. He brought together a team of excellent professionals. Our relationship has lasted to this day. "This house has a piece of my heart in it," says Vasily.

"God helps us in many other ways," continues Nun Marfa. "One day, we paid the builders and had no more money to proceed with the rest of the work. Honestly, I was a little disheartened. But suddenly it occurred to me to open our small gift box with small change, and I found a good sum of money inside. It was a miracle.

The Lord sends us multiple miracles to teach us to trust and have faith in Him and to have more confidence."

Priest Rodion Alkhovik
Priest Rodion Alkhovik
Priest Rodion Alkhovik
Priest Rodion Alkhovik
Priest Rodion Alkhovik

Priest Rodion Alkhovik: "The Lord calls His servants to work for Him"

"This project cements our relationship with our partners, but it also strengthens our connection with God. The more we help others, the more we benefit ourselves and grow spiritually. When we live selfish and self-serving lives, our hearts grow numb and wither away.

But Lord brings His servants together. There is room to do more and reach new heights. Here is a simple example. A team of builders was laying a wall, and they were the same question: "Tell me what you are doing." "I am laying bricks," said one of the men. "I am building a wall," replied the second. "I am building a house," the third builder responded. "I am building a church," said the fourth. "I am serving God," replied the last.

It is always important never to stop in our progress. We can only be happy in the service of another. Unless we know how to serve, we can never experience the fullness of life. We can travel the world and try many things, but our lives will still be incomplete."

Together with our partners at the care facility, our brothers and sisters hope that the construction of the summer house will be complete by the beginning of the warm season, and we will be able to welcome our first children this summer. We continue to spread the word about the summer house. Some people who hear about it give us money, others who cannot offer us help as volunteers.

Together
Together
Together
Together
Together

"We welcome every contribution and are thankful to all who help. We mention the names of all our helpers in our prayers, and we pray for them together with the children. With the help from the people who care, will complete the summer house, I am sure!" concludes Nun Marfa.

You, too, may contribute to this initiative by visiting our donation page.

Or find out more about our ministries among children with disabilities in long-term care.

Recorded by Darya Goncharova

March 18, 2022
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