Chance to change children's lives

PUBLISHED: 12:32 07 September 2006 | UPDATED: 14:49 12 May 2010

Nicola Dunklin with her children, Dominic, eight, and Phoebe, 10, and husband Ian, are ready to meet children from Belarus - 1922DW6

Nicola Dunklin with her children, Dominic, eight, and Phoebe, 10, and husband Ian, are ready to meet children from Belarus - 1922DW6

FROM the toxins and radiation of Chernobyl to the peaceful setting of Melbourn and surrounding villages - disadvantaged children arrive on Sunday for a life-changing experience. The 16 youngsters will travel thousands of miles and embark on a four-week s

FROM the toxins and radiation of Chernobyl to the peaceful setting of Melbourn and surrounding villages - disadvantaged children arrive on Sunday for a life-changing experience.

The 16 youngsters will travel thousands of miles and embark on a four-week stay that it is hoped will help enrich their lives.

Families from Melbourn, Meldreth, Royston, Heydon and Duxford will act as host families for the Cambridgeshire branch of the Friends of Chernobyl's Children (FOCC) charity.

As part of the national FOCC project, more than 1,000 children are brought over from orphanages and disadvantaged homes in Belarus, and given a supply of vitamins, medicine and medical checks.

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

It is the first time that the Cambridgeshire FOCC has taken part in the programme.

Founder of the branch Nicola Dunklin said: "It's exciting to be this close to their arrival.

"We have been working for this for a long time and it will be a great experience for all - particularly the children.

"The host families are all prepared now, and they are all looking forward to the children's arrival.

"Both my children and husband are excited, but a little nervous."

The four-week programme will be a huge boost for the 16 children involved.

Mrs Dunklin said: "Having read the children's histories it has confirmed how vital this stay will be for them and the difference it will make to their lives is immeasurable.

"It has been heart-wrenching to read about their past, and I just wish they were here already."

The average life span for families affected by the disaster is 32.

"However, by taking the children out of the country for a month every year for a seven-year period, there is a good chance of doubling their life expectancy."

Mrs Dunklin, of Medcalfe Way, Melbourn, said: "The visit will significantly extend their lives.

"Their immune systems have been shattered by radiation, but with some fresh air and eating non-contaminated food this will hopefully start their immune systems.

"They will return to Belarus in a better position to fight off disease and hopefully spend less time suffering from illnesses."

Through fund-raising and donations, the branch has raised more than £7,000.

Mrs Dunklin said: "I feel proud of all the people who have chosen to do something and help.

"We can all easily sit back and do nothing, or even find reason to be critical, but all those involved have such good hearts.

"I work with some very special people."

During their stay the children will have dental and optical checks, as well as visits to the seaside and Woburn Zoo.

Mrs Dunklin expects the children to be shy and bewildered during the initial stages of their stay.

She said: "We will do our best to prepare them.

"They have been given information in Belarus and on their journey from Gatwick.

"I will give each child photos and information about the families they will be staying with.

"We also have Russian music and story tapes to keep them entertained, and all the families have had advice from previous host families.

"This will be the children's first visit, but they will return each year from now on.

"Their homeland is contaminated for 24,000 years, so the journey doesn't stop here."

- For more details visit the website at www.focc.org.uk

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