29 years after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, neighbouring Belarus is still experiencing above-average numbers of birth deformities and cancers even in the third generation of children to have been born since. In Belarus nearly everyone eats contaminated food and drinks polluted water both containing radioactive salts, largely caesium, which at best compromises their immune systems and at worst causes cancer.
For children in remission from cancer and who are well enough to travel, the Chernobyl Childrens Project organises four-week month recuperative holidays in the UK. A four-week stay in a non-contaminated environment gives their immune systems a chance to recover.
CCP’s Stafford and Stone branch is looking forward to receiving its 6th group of 10 children and two accompanying adults, a doctor and an interpreter, next summer. Aged 10-12, the children stay in same-sex pairs with a host family for up to two weeks (though one-week stays are also possible).
The children are happy in twin bedded rooms and will share a double bed. They are delighted should they have a room each.
We organise a programme of outings across Staffordshire and Shropshire, for example a visit to Waterworld in Stoke, a day at Standon Bowers outdoor centre and den-building on the Wrekin. The outings take place every two/three days, with hosts responsible for looking after their guests on the days off.
For the group activities, the children’s costs are paid for from CCP’s own fundraising or through sponsorship, though hosts may be asked to pay their own entry costs.
Hosts also provide food for the children and packed lunches for some of the days out. Usually host families or a member of the family comes too but this isn’t essential for every visit as families may lift share or may deliver and collect the children for the activity.
These Russian-speaking children do not speak much English (though some will have a go), but these days, Google Translate is a great help and the interpreter is available at the end of a phone line 24/7. Most children also stay in contact with their families by Skype.
The doctor, who has records of all the children’s medical histories, brings a first-aid box to treat minor injuries and conditions and will, if need be, accompany a child to hospital (to treat a broken bone, for example). We have never had any issues relating directly to their cancers.
All host families, people living in the household aged 16 and over at the time of the visit, have to complete a Home Office Disclosure and Barring Service Application and once this is cleared the family is accepted to host. In 2016, the children will arrive, most likely on 23rd July at Manchester airport and stay until August 13th.
We also have a “Buddy System” of people who are D.B.S. checked but don’t host as maybe in their family there can’t be an adult at home all the time. Buddies can support such hosts so we do have some single mums and grannies who host. Buddies are also invaluable if one of the host families should have a family emergency or event during the visit so to give a host family time out.
If you can’t cost, but would like to find out more about us, CCP Stafford and Stone have open meetings at The Holly Bush, Seighford and fundraising events. We have to raise £6000 each year to cover the travel costs and visas for the party. We also build a clothing bank of outgrown but not out-worn clothes for the children.
Do join us if you feel you can! Perhaps not to host in the first year but just to get to know us and to see what we do. Because of the paperwork involved both with the G.B. government and in Belarus we have to declare our host families by the end of January 2016.
Interested? Please contact Margie Haslop by email to email@example.com or phoning 01785 208080