Caring families offer children better future

PUBLISHED: 11:32 04 August 2006 | UPDATED: 14:47 12 May 2010

The children enjoyed joining in today

The children enjoyed joining in today

FAMILIES from Buntingford and Cottered hope to have lengthened the life expectancy of three children from Belarus. As host families for the Hertfordshire branch of the Friends of Chernobyl s Children (FOCC) charity, they looked after the children through

FAMILIES from Buntingford and Cottered hope to have lengthened the life expectancy of three children from Belarus.

As host families for the Hertfordshire branch of the Friends of Chernobyl's Children (FOCC) charity, they looked after the children throughout July.

The charity devotes its time to raising funds to bring children from Belarus to the UK for a month every year.

Cindy and Phil Hare and Lesley and Ashley Craddock, of Buntingford, and Jane and Mike Roberts, of Cottered, were among 18 Hertfordshire families taking part.

The children in their care were all victims of the world's worst nuclear power accident - the after-affects of the disaster are still taking their toll 20 years later.

Every year, more than 1,000 children, who are at risk, are brought over from orphanages and disadvantaged homes in Belarus and given a supply of vitamins and medicine. They also have medical checks.

Cindy said: "Its paramount that the children receive medical treatment as it helps to repair their damaged immune systems. In the long-term, it will give them a healthier and, hopefully, longer life."

The average life span in Belarus is 32 years. Since 1986, there has been a rise in child cancer and an increase in babies born with physical disabilities and brain damage.

Cindy said: "Through direct exposure from the atmosphere and indirect exposure through the food chain, it is estimated that over the next 15-20 years more than 40,000 children in Belarus will contract thyroid cancer.

"But by taking the children out of the country for a month every year for a seven-year period, and by feeding them uncontaminated food, clean water, and making sure they receive medical checks, there is a good chance of doubling their life expectancy."

The 18 children took part in a number of day trips and activities and spent three weeks at school.

Cindy said: "The children got on really well. It's certainly a challenge, especially with the language barrier, but it's amazing when you make the breakthrough.

"It was tough letting them go back home."

It was the first time the Craddock and Roberts family, who cared for Andre, eight, and Tanya, 12, had been host families.

For Cindy and Phil, it was the second time looking after eight-year-old Meesha.

Cindy said: "During their stay the children become much more confident and a lot happier. The whole experience has such an impact on them."

It cost the Hertfordshire branch about £6,000 to bring over the 18 children and two interpreters.

- There are 26 FOCC groups in the UK and to find out more visit www.focc.org.uk

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