In July I had the pleasure of hosting two Belarussian girls for two weeks. Within these two weeks, I had totally re-evaluated my life and what I wanted out of it. I also learned how we can easily forget or be in total ignorance of the suffering of others.
Ever since I worked in an orphanage in Kenya, I’ve always had this desire to adopt, to give a loving home to a child who has little or no chance of being truly loved in life. I thought hosting these girls would give me a taster of what it would be like to have to put someone else before me at all times no matter what.
Well I went from a single girl whose highlight of the week was knocking back a bottle of Prosecco with my single girlfriends and trudging through the pubs of Galway, leaving no stone unturned, to a single mom, whose highlight of the day was going to the supermarket in the hope of having a conversation with an adult!
The night before they arrived, I had this fear they wouldn’t like me, that I would be inadequate as their “mother“. Consequently, I filled a vacant room in my house with all sorts of toys, just in case they couldn’t stand me!
On the surface, these girls were like any other kids – they’d turn their noses up to the carrots on the dinner plate and never ever tidy up, thus leaving my house looking like a war zone. It wasn’t long before I discovered the power of chocolate as a bargaining tool and the promise of a trip to Perks or Monkey Business. We soon developed an understanding!
After they returned to Belarus, I asked myself what had I done for these girls. Did I make any difference to their lives? I have to admit I had doubts about it. After all, they looked “fine” when they landed on my doorstep and they seemed happy-go-lucky in general. Not only that but they were happy about going home; I was the eejit crying in the car after dropping them off at the bus!
Then I had to remind myself of what I knew about their situation back home in Belarus. My two girls eat contaminated food and drink contaminated milk and water every day. Their parents don’t have the funds to buy imported food or water to safeguard their kids’ health. Spending a month breathing in our uncontaminated air adds two years onto their lives, according to doctors.
Every day we see ads about starving children in Africa. Unfortunately, we don’t see any ads to help the victims of the Chernobyl disaster. Radiation is a silent and invisible killer, and my girls are just a distant echo of what happened in 1986. Yet nearly half of Belarus’s teenagers are walking around with serious health problems, such as chronic blood disorders, weakened hearts and malfunctioning thyroids to name but a few.
I learned so much in the two weeks those girls stayed with me. They taught me how to show love and be loved, how to laugh and get the most out of life despite the cards you’ve been dealt. I have a new-found respect for parents, especially single ones. I was totally wrecked caring for them and I just had them for two weeks!
I found it hard to adjust to my temporary new life. You have to be totally selfless to be any good at it. A friend of mine who is a mother said to me, “It’s different when they’re your own!“ However, I’m not sure I’m ready to be that person just yet. I’ll give this singledom a couple more years, perhaps until I’m fully ready to embrace the life of a mother!