‘Some of the children were having ice cream for the first time’

Newbridge-based volunteers work on Russian orphanage

Seventeen men from the Friends of Belarus charity, which travels to Belarus and Russia carrying out badly-needed repairs, will spend ten days in Vorontsovo, Russia, finishing the renovation of an orphanage, which was started last year.

  The charity, which is based in Newbridge, Co. Galway, has been fundraising locally for quite some time and chairman, Seán Gavin, was quick to highlight the importance of assistance from local people.

  “We have been fundraising locally and we have received great support from the people of Newbridge and surrounding areas as well as Roscommon in general and also from BNI Networking Group. This trip will see the finishing touches such as electricity and flooring being put into the orphanage.”

  Vorontsovo is an underdeveloped rural area in western Russia and Seán says that the isolated community is in desperate need of support.

  “It’s hard to believe such places exist to be honest, there’s nothing there for the community. Not even a community centre for people to meet in. Some of the children who were out there were bought their first ice-cream when we arrived.”

  Even getting to the area can prove problematic, but Seán insists it’s all part of the adventure.

  “We flew to Riga in Latvia, then it’s a four-hour bus journey to the border. We usually arrive there at 4 am and then it’s a walk across ‘no-man’s land’ and then you’re picked up on the other side and it’s a two-hour bus journey. When you’ve done it a few times you get used to it!” In terms of the work, Seán says it’s all about doing what you can.

  “I’m an electrician myself but we do what has to be done on the day and provide our own expertise when needed. We have fourteen tradesmen and four labourers and we’ll work hard,” he added before hurrying off to catch his flight to Riga last week.