Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Irina by the age of 2 found herself abandoned by her father due to the stigma which sadly resides within Belarus around having a disabled child. Due to this stigma it is all too common for children to be abandoned to the state, with UNICEF claiming in 2013 that 35% of the 30,000 institutionalised children of Belarus had some form of mental or physical disability. Whilst Irina’s mother luckily stuck by her, the Belarusian education system also deserted her. Due to her minor learning disabilities she was instead placed into a state Internat, where sadly she became withdrawn, uncommunicative and utterly alone.

Her mother spotted this decline and sent her to our partners at Isle of Hope, which lived up to its name by providing much needed hope. When her father and the education system refused to help her, our partners were there to offer care and support. There she could communicate with people similar to her and realise that she was not alone. Now no longer the withdrawn individual she arrived at Isle of Hope as, she is known by everyone there as a friendly, smiling, vivacious and talkative teenager.

She fills her days with her favourite activities which include drawing, playing with puzzles, music classes, gymnastic and art and crafts such as rag mat making. Such activities have been tailored by the staff to help educate her in basic life skills, including how to wash, in an attempt to compensate for the education she has missed. She also can often be found dressing up in front of a mirror, no longer hiding from the world, but rather wanting to be seen by others. Irina is especially excited for the trips the Isle of Hope staff plan to arrange to local parks and rivers, as she wants to get out and see the world.

Her mother is overwhelmed by the dramatic changes she has seen in her daughter. Without the worthwhile work of our partners at Isle of Hope such children as Irina would still feel alone. We at ChildAid would like to thank all of our supporters, as without your care and donations such life changing work would not be possible. Your gifts are a blessing to Irina and all those supported.