Whilst we are busy organising Christmas, choosing the perfect gifts and filling our shopping trolleys sky high, we wonder how families in Belarus are preparing for the festive season.

In August of this year, we were hosts to a tiny seven year old girl who came to Leicestershire on the charity’s recuperative care programme. After four weeks sharing her bedroom, my nine year old daughter misses her Belarusian “sister” and wonders what she is up to. But whereas my daughter created version five of her Christmas list this week, little miss Belarus won’t have a list at all.

There is a high level of poverty in the area where she lives, still contaminated 28 years after the Chernobyl disaster. Her parents work hard to feed their five children, but the fridge is usually empty. We will snuggle up with the heating on this winter, but the temperature can fall to minus 30 in this desolate area of Eastern Europe. It is too cold for the children to play outside and they don’t have the luxuries of games consoles to keep them occupied indoors.

On the big day, we will open a pile of presents before tucking into a giant turkey with all the trimmings.  Although Grandfather Frost will be a symbol of Christmas in Belarus, it is highly unlikely his sleigh will fly over these remote villages. The children currently on hosting programme probably won’t open their eyes to a stocking of goodies and their empty fridges will not miraculously fill for festive feasting.

However our little surrogates will not be forgotten. We have already posted gifts of dolls and chocolate goodness. We send them our love and wishes for a brighter future.

– Host family