Group set for children’s visit
PUBLISHED: 11:00 23 August 2007 | UPDATED: 15:14 12 May 2010
CHILDREN from Cher-nobyl return next month for the second visit of their seven-year programme. The 18 youngsters from Belarus will arrive in two weeks time and head to Melbourn and the surrounding area as the Cambridgeshire branch of the charity Friends
CHILDREN from Cher-nobyl return next month for the second visit of their seven-year programme.
The 18 youngsters from Belarus will arrive in two weeks' time and head to Melbourn and the surrounding area as the Cambridgeshire branch of the charity Friends of Chernobyl Children (FOCC) embarks on a four-week programme of activities and health care.
Last year the youngsters, who all come from disadvantaged homes or orphanages, took part in the branch's first involvement in the national movement that sees thousands of Belarussian children visit the UK every year.
Nicola Dunklin, founder of the Cambridgeshire branch, said: "It's incredible at just how far our group has come and it just continues to grow.
"To think that 18 months or so ago it was just an idea."
Nicola, who lives in Melbourn, had made it her lifelong ambition to help the children affected by the Chernobyl disaster after witnessing the tragic scenes in 1986 on television.
She was one of millions of people who watched as the world's worst nuclear power accident unfolded with 190 tons of radioactive waste plunged into the atmosphere.
Nicola said: "I'll never forget those scenes.
"After the people of Chernobyl were exposed to deadly amounts of radioactivity it was the children who suffered the most - and they still do to this day.
"That's why it's so vital for them to be part of these programmes.
"Four weeks out of the country does so much for their immune systems, which have been shattered by the radiation."
During the four-week stay, the children will be given a supply of vitamins and medicine, as well as being given medical checks.
With the average lifespan for families affected by the disaster just 32, taking the youngsters out of the country for one month every year for a seven year period will drastically enhance their lives - with some believing it could even be doubled.
Nicola said: "The visits significantly extend their lives and they return to Belarus in a better position to fight disease and hopefully spend less time suffering from illness."
"Quite a few of them have been poorly over the last year, so it's even more important to get them over here."
This year the programme has been such a success, the group have been able to fund two more children, and it will welcome eight-year-olds Ilya and Alexsei to last year's visitors.
"To have two more children involved is brilliant," said Nicola. "It just shows again how far we have come."
"The host families are looking forward to it, as are the four new families involved. Although they are slightly nervous, I'm sure they will be great."
She said: "We're a lot more prepared this time around and a year ago we were still running around trying to tie everything up.
"In fact, I feel I should be worrying a bit more."
Nicola and some of the group have also been busy learning Russian, as well as taking tips from Russian cookery books.
"We know a few more words now, so hopefully we'll be able to have better conversations with them.
And from what I gather they are just as excited as we are about the visit. The family and I just can't wait to see them again."
Nicola continued: "The whole process is hard work, and almost like a full-time job. However, I'm so glad that I got involved.
"It's only when you see the children do you realise how beneficial it is - it's very satisfying.
"It's just a wonderful experience to be part of and I have been overwhelmed by people's generosity - it's taught me a lot about human nature," she said.
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