A Bradford photographer told today of the terrible poverty he witnessed at an orphanage in Belarus.

Ian Beesley, 47, joined a team of volunteer builders who were refurbishing ramshackle shower cubicles at an orphanage there.

Now the award-winning photographer, who is more used to capturing sporting moments, has published a book of photographs to raise money to fund further renovation. One heartbreaking picture is the one shown, when he captured a new arrival at the orphanage on camera.

More than 200 youngsters at the orphanage in a remote village called Zhitkovitch have been struggling without running hot water, and face early morning washes in sub-zero temperatures.

Mr Beesley said: "It was heart-breaking. Considering it is only a two-hour plane journey out there, and it is classed as Europe, you cannot comprehend the poverty."

The orphan crisis in Belarus is largely due to the devastating effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which contaminated farmlands and forests.

There have been large increases in people suffering cancer, diabetes, heart disease and birth defects.

Mr Beesley said: "A lot of the children look ill, and many have lost parents directly as a result of Chernobyl. We were worried about what we were eating but we were told that staying a week would not have that much effect. What about the children though?"

He said most days just feeding the youngsters, aged between three and 17, was a struggle.

"We mucked in. I ended up doing the cooking and going into the markets every day and seeing what was available. But a lot of the older kids helped to fix up the building so it got done quickly."

The team was put together by Stoke-based company NESN which wanted to mark its 10th anniversary by doing something positive for the underprivileged.

One of the people organising the project, Jonathan Pearson, met Mr Beesley while he was taking pictures of the Bradford Bulls for an exhibition, and asked him to join.

He jumped at the chance.

He said: "I have been to Russia three times and I am fascinated by the place but I wasn't expecting the poverty of Belarus."

But he said the children were well-cared for, given the limited resources.

"There is no television, no computers, the children didn't even possess their own clothes. They had to share whatever they wore. The next day it would be worn by someone else.

"But they were cheerful and they felt secure in that place."

He remembers a boy called Dennis with particular fondness.

Dennis looked after his two younger sisters by scavenging bottles after their father was sent to prison for killing a man in a drunken brawl. But alcoholics in the town of Gomel did the same and the 13-year-old's head was covered in bruises and scars from beatings.

"That was heart-rending. Dennis was a really bright kid - in a few days he had taught me some Russian and picked up English really quickly. Seeing the state of him was heart-breaking."

The book costs £5 and most of the money will be ploughed back into the orphanage for further improvements.

The book can be ordered by e-mailing Mr Beesley at ian@ianbeesley.co.uk or via the website www.ianbeesley.co.uk.