Eight youngsters who live in the contaminated zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster are nearing the end of their month-long healthy holiday in the Borders.
For the past three weeks the children, aged 10 and 11, from Belarus have been staying with host families throughout the region at locations such as Kikton Manor (near Peebles), Galashiels, Lethem, Ednam and Harelaw. In addition, support families have been accommodating the youngsters to give their hosts a break during the month.
Highlights of the visit include a trip to the Bass Rock and a tour of the Seabird Centre at North Berwick, a visit to the Border Union Show at Kelso, Bowhill Estate near Selkirk and a bread-making experience at Etal village in north Northumberland. This year’s visit is due to end this Saturday(August 3) with a party at Selkirk Baptist Church before the children return home to Belarus two days later.
Fraser Simm, chairman of the Scottish Borders link of the Chernobyl Children Lifeline, said: “This summer we have enjoyed another very successful visit by the children from Belarus.
“The generosity of people and organisations in the Borders – from Jedburgh Rotary Club and Clark’s shoe shop in Galashiels to local opticians and dentists – is greatly appreciated.
“The Borders link has now hosted 108 children since it was first set up in 2001 and has raised more than £50,000 to support the nine summer visits which have been organised during that time.
“It seems a long time since four people with no experience got together to discuss starting a link. The first children to come over arrived at Minsk airport in a horse and cart and were met by a piper at Stow Town Hall.”
It has been estimated that a visit to a clean area such as the Borders can add up to two years of the expected lifespan of the youngsters affected by the radiation fallout from the power station explosion in 1986.
Anyone interested in getting involved in future visits should contact Fraser Simm (01578 730297) or secretary Sarah Barton (01835 840333).