- Doug Brendel
A Belarusian Christmas Story
His name is Vyacheslav. He’s 56 years old.
Born in Russia, he had a hard life. Lived for a time in Ukraine. Ended up in Belarus. No family, no friends.
Except for you.
SLEEPING IN THE STATION
He was sleeping in the train station, and there he heard about a place in Minsk where he could get a good hot meal in the middle of the day. He made his way to our “Response of the Heart” soup kitchen.
Our good-hearted chef Valery (at right) fed him, and befriended him. Nelli opened our “boutique” to him, so he could get adequate clothing.
Vyacheslav was determined to start his life over. To make good.
In the Belarusian system, however, you need to register with the government in order to get an “official” job, or live legally at any address.
Registration costs money. Of which, Vyacheslav had none.
But generous friends of New Thing had already given, out of the goodness of their hearts ... so our “Response of the Heart” team (at right) could pay for Vyacheslav’s registration application.
Then — a setback.
His application was denied, because he wasn’t a Belarusian citizen.
Vyacheslav refused to give up. He would keep sleeping at the train station, and find “unofficial” work if he had to, until he could afford “unofficial” lodging.
He went to a library, got his free library card, and started using their computers to search the Internet for job openings.
He had no phone, but he was undaunted. He wrote down the phone numbers he found, and then made his way back to the only friends he had found: our “Response of the Heart” team.
His request was very simple: “Mogu ya vospol’zovat’sya tvoim telefonom?”
“May I use your telephone?”
KEEPING HOPE ALIVE
The answer was yes, of course — but soon, Vyacheslav faced another disappointment.
Half the phone numbers connected him to recruiting agencies, none of whom would consider a homeless person for a job.
The other half were employers who wouldn’t talk to anyone without a registration.
Still, the generosity of the New Thing family was keeping Vyacheslav’s hopes alive.
Our “Response of the Heart” team got on the phone to their contacts in the area, finally found a fish-processing factory that would take an unregistered foreigner. No registration required — but because they handled food, they would need Vyacheslav to produce a medical certificate, for liability reasons.
Thanks to friends like you, giving generously, our “Response of the Heart” was able to pay the fee for his exam (non-Belarusians pay a 150% surcharge for medical care).
BACK ON THE STREET
Vyacheslav got the job — he and our team were delighted, and Vyacheslav was deeply grateful — but the work involved a lot of heavy lifting, and soon, he had aggravated an old knee problem.
Vyacheslav was determined to keep his job, so our team arranged for him to consult with a medical-aids agency, who recommended a special type of bandage. Your generosity paid the bill!
This might have been the happy ending, but the boss had soured on Vyacheslav because of his medical issue — and put him back out on the street.
Back at square one ... except that now, Vyacheslav had friends who cared.
Our “Response of the Heart” team got back on the phone, and found someone who could pay Vyacheslav for some odd jobs.
The only hitch: He would need to be reachable.
Vyacheslav still had his old Russian phone, but it would be non-functional without a Belarusian SIM card. “Response of the Heart” bought him one.
And finally comes the happy ending!
A CHRISTMAS LIKE NO OTHER
Vyacheslav has worked continuously as a handyman, for three months now.
He gets paid each day he works. He pays for his own space in a hostel, with a kitchen and a shower, all those basics that we take for granted ... but were out of reach for him, for a very long time.
This Christmas will be a very special one for Vyacheslav ... a happy one, for the first time in a long time ... because he’s experienced what it’s really all about: love making a difference.
Vyacheslav is brimming with gratitude.
So am I.
I’m grateful for every person who gives to New Thing ... especially those who “auto-give” faithfully every month.
You’re making Christmas miracles happen every day, through our “Response of the Heart” team in Belarus.
Thank you for caring so much.