Children of Chernobyl enjoy month of activities during respite trip
Ten youngsters from an area of Belarus affected by the Chernobyl disaster have enjoyed the holiday of a lifetime staying with host families in Suffolk and Norfolk.
Eight girls aged nine to 11 and two 11-year-old boys have been welcomed to the area by six hosts in the Beccles, Bungay and Loddon areas.
The children come from two village schools in the Zhabinka District of Brest, and travelled for more than 11 hours.
Alison Stannard, who set up the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line Chet and Waveney Link in 2014, said: “They were very tired but excited when they arrived.
“The hosts this year are all new and have never hosted before.
“The children are all extremely well behaved and several have a good understanding of English.”
The children are brought to the UK for a health break from the continuing effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Since the youngsters arrived on June 3 they have enjoyed trips to Ringsfield Eco Centre, Maisebrook Farm where they got the chance to make sausages, Gig House Pottery in Thurlton, Vauxhall Holiday Park, Walberswick for crabbing and a trip on the Coastal Voyager at Southwold.
They also spent a day in Beccles, visiting the museum and lido, with a welcome party hosted at the Waveney House Hotel by Dan and Maria Cripps where the youngsters met Beccles mayor Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw.
Other days out have been spent at Banham Zoo, swimming at Waterlane Leisure Centre in Lowestoft and on the Waveney Stardust.
Mrs Stannard said: “The majority of these activities have been donated or paid for through the generosity of organisations and individuals.
“We have also visited Plummer Associates dentist in Caister and were hosted for the day by Caister Junior School. Sadly two of our children needed fillings and extractions in adult teeth so we have to make further visits.
“We also visited Rene More at Observatory the Opticians in Beccles and two of our girls have been prescribed spectacles donated free of charge by Rene.”
As well as trips out, a day centre is held during the week in Loddon, run by volunteers, to support the host families.
Mrs Stannard added: “Our children arrived with little except for presents from their host families. We have been collecting new and nearly new clothing for several months and each child now have several outfits to wear while they are here and to take home to Belarus.
“Thanks to the generosity of the customers at The Butchers Arms in Beccles who raised money, all of the children are being provided with a school uniform, school shoes and a rucksack.
“The children are having a wonderful time and this year, for the first time, are getting to know local children through the St Luke’s Get a Life Gang youth club each week.”
All of the children will go home with a year’s supply of vitamins for themselves and their brothers and sisters, as well as cough and throat sweets, paracetamol, vapour rub and thermometers.
Mrs Stannard also thanked the Great Yarmouth Squadron of Air Cadets who offered up their minibus to help the group get out and about and Barfords Vehicle Hire who gave them reduced rates for hire of vehicles to and from Gatwick.
The children will be returning home on July 1.
However the link’s support for children in Belarus doesn’t stop there. Generous donations have also helped to provide treatment back home for an 11th child, Olga.
Mrs Stannard said: “Olga has a chronic skin condition which means that her arms, legs and torso must be dressed with expensive dressings every day. Olga has already lost her fingers and toes because of the condition. These dressings cannot be purchased in Belarus and must be imported. Although the State does make a financial contribution, her parents spend most of their income keeping Olga safe and well.
“We could not bring Olga to the UK and so through the generosity of private individuals we have purchased six month’s supply of dressings for her - which cost £650 - and will reduce the financial burden upon her parents and help Olga to maintain a normal life.”