USW students help to change children's lives on Belarus trip

Nursing students Belarus August 2019

A group of student nurses from the University of South Wales (USW) have helped change the lives of children and orphans during a charity trip to Belarus.

The Nusing students and staff spent a week at Novinki Orphanage, on the outskirts of Belarus’s capital, Minsk, which cares for children aged four to 18.

The trip was in support of Welsh charity Leaves of Hope, which works with children who have a range of physical, psychological and emotional needs.

Among the students were Katherine Thomas, from Tredegar, (pictured below with one of the children), who is about to start her third year of an Adult Nursing degree, and Lisa Kirby, from Newport, who has completed her first year of Learning Disability Nursing.

They were joined by fellow Nursing students Jacky Beya, Natasha Denham, Corinna Beamon and Carly Hodges, as well as MSc Chiropractic student Bronwyn Castle.

Katherine Thomas Belarus trip August 2019Katherine , 20, and Lisa, 50, both gave up their time to involve the children in stimulating activities, arts and crafts, and encouraging fun and laughter.

“I jumped at the chance to join the trip, as I’d never done any volunteering work before,” said Katherine.

“It was a real eye-opener, and to be able to spend time with them and make a difference to their lives was a really rewarding experience.

“Now that I’m home, I miss going to see them every day. I’d go back in a heartbeat.”

Lisa, who lives with her husband Les and is mum to Chloe, 24, Jack, 23 and Ellen, 19, described the experience as “absolutely amazing”.

“It was so humbling to meet individuals who are going through such hardship, and bring a smile to their faces just by doing something fun with them.

“We enjoyed taking some of the children on a specially-adapted swing which accommodates wheelchairs, playing parachute games and making lots of craft projects together.

“The work Leaves of Hope do there is extraordinary. I would love to have the opportunity to go back next year and help more people.”

Natalie Davies-Dixon, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing at USW, added: “Offering our students this experience is invaluable and will probably change their lives forever”.

“They were all incredibly motivated and passionate about travelling to what may be seen as a challenging environment. We hope to continue to work with the charity and offer other students the chance to make a difference.”

Dr Nicky Genders, Head of the School of Care Sciences, added: “Opportunities like these can help to develop the leadership skills required to be successful healthcare professionals of the future.”