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Heim-statt Tschernobyl e.V.

In 1990, after a bicycle-ride for peace through the country of Belarus, a group of craftsmen and graduates got together and decided that they wanted to do something that would bring effective help to the people living in the area surrounding Chernobyl. The first initiative was a children’s holiday camp in Germany. In 1991 a building program was begun to enable resettlement from the contaminated Zone around Chernobyl to the non-contaminated north of White Russia. Through self-help and in co-operation with German and Belarussian volunteers, families wanting to resettle began to build environment-friendly houses there. Each house takes three weeks to build, just the length of a summer work camp. The houses are constructed with clay walls filled in with boards made of wood chip. So far more than 1000 people from Germany, men, women and young people have taken part.

A settlement of 31 houses, the village of Drushnaja in the Rayon Mjadel, has been completed, together with a number of workshops, a community house, accommodation for a doctor and a church. A second settlement is growing up near the town of Lepel 150km away. So far eleven houses have been completed.

A second focus of involvement with people from the area around Chernobyl are encounter- and holiday programs. Mothers and children from the Chernobyl Zone come to the new settlement to experience there a holiday with good food, medical care, and recreation. During this time the mothers have the opportunity to speak with others about their concerns.

In 2003 for the first time a group of German and Belarussian women met in Drushnaja and spent two weeks together. It is hoped that there will be other meetings like this in the future.

For the last eight years a youth group from Germany has held a summer camp in one of the little villages near Drushnaja. Through concrete practical help and personal encounters with the people in the village, many of whom were forced labourers in Germany during the second world war, the young people make their contribution to reconciliation between the two countries.

We assist the new settlers in their need to find social integration and work. Other initiatives concentrate on ecologically friendly structural projects with the aim to find the best sources of energy for the country. After the construction of a small Fotovoltaik plant, we initiated a fundraising campaign, which enabled us to erect two wind-farms, the first in Belarus, in 2000 and 2001. They produce 1.3 million kWh a year. Another ‘lighthouse-project’ began in 2002. It is a plant which produces reed-boards. These provide an environment-friendly insulation material. Its use enables energy savings in a country with high energy consumption. There are many lakes in the area around Drushnaja. They are often overgrown with reeds. The use of these reeds therefore serves a double purpose.

At the present time we are researching into the possibility of establishing the district of Mjadel as a region of competence for energy saving and production. We are concentrating in the first place on sources of energy from renewable row-materials. We are engaged in the planning process for the construction of a large wood-heating system for a regional technical college and for a smaller heating system for a model low level ecology-friendly building which is to become an outlying medical clinic and social care centre.

Our Belarussian partner is the ‘International Organisation OekoDom’, a charity located in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The organisation seeks to increasingly finance the projects out of its own income from the sale of its products.

So far our work has been financed almost entirely through private donations. The work is to a large extent done by volunteers.

In 2003 Heim-statt Tschernobyl was the first recipient of the ‘Marion-Doenhoff-Prize’, donated by the newspaper DIE ZEIT and the Doenhoff Foundation.

EXPO 2000 awarded a prize to the project for the exemplary way in which it fosters international co-operation among NGOs.

Buende, Germany, January 2004 – Dietrich von Bodelschwingh