April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl disaster struck horror in people all over the world. The accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine released a massive amount of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the U.S.S.R. and Europe, making its way to the United States. But even though particles have been traced to America, the degree of radiation is nowhere near that in Belarus, a small poor country in Russia. Killing many, the radiation compromised the immune systems of all, especially children.
Thousands of miles away, in a tiny town in Tennessee, a church ministry was formed at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church to provide a respite to these children and give their compromised immune systems a chance to recover. Through this ministry, Belarusian children have come to Chattanooga for fresh air and sunlight and nutrition for over three decades. And even though the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is no longer front page news, the battle to aid these children is front and center on the minds of volunteers for the Chernobyl Children’s Program. Eve Soltau is a dedicated volunteer with CCP, and the fact that the borders are closed due to the pandemic does not discourage her. Actually, the pandemic probably does discourage her because she can no longer travel to Belarus. But it does not deter her.
Seeds of Hope is one initiative of the CCP, and it involves selling original artwork created by the young students at the Republican College of Art in Minsk, Belarus. For years, Eve, along with others, including Catherine Kelley, travelled to Belarus to collect these works that included watercolors, batik, oils, and pen and ink. They sold them to support the mission of CCP, which is to secure a future and a hope for these children, one child at a time.
Unable to travel to Belarus, Eve did not wait out the pandemic as she busied herself with a slew of other things on her plate. No, she began making jewelry to sell in an effort to support the cause, and she and Bonny Clark set up a table at the Lookout Holiday Market, with all proceeds supporting CCP.
“Eve donates the supplies, all the materials for the jewelry,” Bonny said. And the wares are fabulous! Beaded bracelets of different stones, hammered gold oval earrings, sweet charms … I bought several pairs of earrings under the guise of gift-giving. But it is doubtful these beautiful baubles will leave my home. This jewelry is amazing. Deflecting any personal compliments, Eve bragged on her former college roommate, Eve Roebuck, saying she has such an eye for combining different shades and types of stones in these pieces. Eve Roebuck also volunteers for the CCP, designing and creating jewelry from the materials donated by Eve Soltau.
Much of Eve’s jewelry is made of gold, and clearly her heart is made of the same.
There is a Facebook page, Belarus Friends and Family, and a website, chernobylchildrensprogramofgreaterchattanooga.wordpress.com.
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Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.