Hosting children from Chernobyl

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On April 26 1986, two explosions ripped through the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine and a fire started in the core which burned for several days.

A cloud of deadly radio activity dispersed into the surrounding environment. This silent killer continued to pour from the damaged reactor for 10 days. Four hundred times more radioactive material was released than had been by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

More than 70 per cent of it fell on Belarus and as a result, even 27 years after the accident, thousands of babies are born every year who go on to develop thyroid cancer, bone cancer and leukaemia.

In order to try to help some of these children, five years after the nuclear accident, the charity “Chernobyl Children’s Life Line (CCLL)”, was founded. One of its primary aims is to bring child victims to the UK for recuperative breaks of four weeks – in fact over 46,000 children have been brought over to the UK to stay with host families in the last 20 years.

“I first heard about CCLL when we moved to Stow,” said recent ‘first time’ host Belinda Glennon. “I had seen posters and a neighbour, who had hosted children, told me a little about the organisation. At that time, with a very young family, it was impossible for me to consider hosting but it was something I kept at the back of my mind, especially when I found out that four weeks’ respite was thought to add up to two additional years’ life expectancy of the children.

I became aware of the CCLL again around the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in 2011. At that point I felt that I was be able to find out about the possibility of being a host family. My children were now 10, eight and five years old.

“At the initial meetings I was made to feel very comfortable and welcome and was certainly never under any pressure to take on more than I wanted. Our family decided that we wanted to host but that two weeks would be enough for a first experience. However, we looked forward to the girls’ arrival with excitement and anticipation!

“When we picked up the girls from the airport they could not speak any English but seemed happy and excited to have arrived. From that moment on, they were a sheer delight to have.”

The Scottish Borders link of CCLL (which covers the whole Borders), are now gearing up for a potential visit of children in July this year which will last four weeks. The link are always looking for both new host families and new support people. If you are interested please contact Fraser Simm on 01578 730297 or email Sarah Barton at CCCLL@sarahbarton.co.uk. Or come to the next meeting of CCLL on February 4 at 7pm at the Kingsknowes Hotel in Galashiels.