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Where are they now?

"Where are they now?" Continued...

Issue: "Lifelines: No little people," Dec. 14, 1996

Last Christmas Branko Lovrec (see WORLD, March 30) had shoeboxes on his mind; this year, it's chickens. The director of the Christian Resource Center in Zagreb, Croatia, assisted Franklin Graham's Operation Christmas Child to distribute 400,000 shoeboxes filled with goodies to needy children throughout the former Yugoslavia. This Christmas Mr. Graham's organization, Samaritan's Purse, will handle the shoeboxes themselves from Sarajevo. For Mr. Lovrec and his group, it's a purposeful if friendly parting of the ways. "That is about survival," said Mr. Lovrec's colleague Ivan Vacec. "This is about living," he says of the chickens.

The Christian Resource Center helped farmers this year in northern Bosnia raise 100,000 chickens for laying eggs. During five years of war, Mr. Vacec says, the Baptist humanitarian organization distributed eggs and other food for survival. "Now these people are starting to work again." The initial chicken development project helped restart 10 farms; a summer tomato project helped five families return to farming. The center provided farming equipment donated from Austria and supplies like seeds and incubators donated from relief organizations. Once their products sell, these farms will be self-sustaining. "The war is over," Mr. Vacec said. "This is not a Third World situation. These people need to keep going in a normal free-enterprise system."

Ura Tchekhovski and Allison Culpeper did without summer vacations this year. The co-directors of the American-Belarussian Relief Organization instead corralled 312 Belarussian kids into American homes for six weeks to give their bodies a rest from nuclear fallout and economic deprivation. Both stem from the explosion at Chernobyl 10 years ago that sent clouds of radioactive material across Belarus (see WORLD, April 13). It was ABRO's fifth year of bringing children to the United States and its largest group ever.

Mr. Tchekhovski, who threads the children through the red tape of his country's communist government so they can travel, also organized two weeks of summer camp for the first time. Sixty kids came to a wooded site in Belarus far from the nuclear-contaminated zones. They were joined by KGB officers and the country's minister of tourism for the entire time because the property is owned by the government. Belarus's democratically elected president is a communist, and only two weeks ago he abolished parliament after giving himself near-absolute power.

Mrs. Culpeper does not expect the political changes to affect ABRO's work significantly because the group has established a proven record of improving the health of children and hospitals in Belarus. Through the winter months she and Mr. Tchekhovski, working with Dr. Sergei Chunikhovsky, hope to set up a medical-dental van equipped for service in remote areas. Several American hospitals also want to establish formal programs to treat more children in the United States.

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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