Last week I was at a conference in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. “Safe Belarus for Children” is the name of the conference and it was arranged for the fourth time by Ponimanie, one of Childhood’s partner organizations in Belarus.
Victor Vieth speaking at the conference
Ponimanie means understanding in Russian, and one of Ponimanie’s projects is called Dom Ponimaniya, House of Understanding. The project is inspired by the Scandinavian Barnahus model, where the purpose is to ensure that child victims of abuse receive the services they need in a child-friendly environment.
The conference lasted for three days and attracted over 200 participants from different countries. International experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations, officials from various Belarusian ministries, commissions and committees, psychologists, professors and journalists were invited to discuss child protection in Belarus and other countries.
One of the engaging speakers was Victor Vieth, the Executive Director of the National Child Protection Training Center in Minnesota, who presented his plan to end child abuse in the United States within 120 years. Is it really possible to end child abuse in three generations? After listen to Victor Vieth, I would say yes, it is possible.
In Transcarpathia, Childhood is funding the organisation Advance which has organised a number of after-school activities for children from at-risk families. The children sign up for weekly computer classes and photography, cooking, or sports and excursions. Once a week, they also attend a playgroup session led by a social worker and psychologist. Being a bit of a computer geek I was thrilled to attend the best computer class I have seen in any project. Unfortunately, most computer classes end up with the kids just playing games or chatting. Here they all learned how to open, change and save documents, how to cut and paste and create images. Happily the children all followed instructions and put their personal touches on the image they were taught to make step by step. Everyone was so concentrated and quiet. Afterwards I spoke with three little boys, all of them looking malnourished and dressed in worn clothes. They were so happy when talking about the computer class and how much they are learning, how cool the teacher is (I agree – he was), and (most heartbreakingly importantly) how this is the only thing they get to do outside of school.
Here’s a collage of the images the children made during the class.
Last week, Germany’s most important media award was presented at a glamorous gala in Düsseldorf. Millions of viewers watched the ceremony live on TV. The BAMBI award is a tribute to the heroes of our times and a symbol of recognition. Next to persons from media and film businesses, important pioneers and individuals are awarded for their dedication and commitment. The German Rabbi Daniel Alter was the recipient of the golden deer in the category “Integration”. This summer he was brutally attacked in Berlin. The perpetrators mugged him after asking if he is Jewish. Daniel Alter’s four year old daughter had to witness the violence.
Instead of being intimidated, Daniel Alter took advantage of the situation and became a symbolic figure for peaceful interaction between Jews and non-Jewish Germans. In his acceptance speech, the Rabbi dedicated his award to the project HEROES, funded by Childhood.
“For me the Berlin HEROES is the true hero of the 21st century”, he said. By empowering young people and encouraging them to distance themselves from honour-related oppression, the project HEROES in Berlin is educating boys to become positive role models. They visit peers at schools and discuss themes like gender equality, democracy and human rights. Childhood has funded the project since 2007. The concept originally comes from Sweden and Childhood helped transfer the method to Germany.
“You have deserved this one – it is my sign of solidarity”, Daniel Alter concluded and I can do nothing but bee proud and agree.
See the acceptance speech in German here.