Youngsters can go days without food'
PUBLISHED: 11:51 12 April 2007 | UPDATED: 15:05 12 May 2010
SEVEN months after 16 Belarussian youngsters visited her home Nicola Dunklin has flown out to Eastern Europe to check on their progress. Last year the youngsters, who had been affected by the Chernobyl disaster, spent four weeks in the care of host famil
SEVEN months after 16 Belarussian youngsters visited her home Nicola Dunklin has flown out to Eastern Europe to check on their progress.
Last year the youngsters, who had been affected by the Chernobyl disaster, spent four weeks in the care of host families from in and around Melbourn, and were given a vital programme of medical care and fun-packed activities.
The programme was extremely successful, and last week, Nicola and another host, Vanessa Cross, were in Belarus for a five day visit to the children's homes.
Nicola said: "The programme was a great success and went a long way in giving them all a more healthy outlook.
"But we were in Belarus to see how the programme was working. We have heard a lot of stories about Belarus and have read the backgrounds and histories of all the children.
"The trip gave us a first hand opportunity to see for ourselves."
Nicola said that they were met with poverty and conditions she describes as "a country mile below the standard we would ever encounter in England".
"What struck us the most was the fact some of the children can go days without food," said Nicola.
"Visiting them has made us realise that in many cases it's not just about the month they spend with us.
"While this is an essential boost to their immune system, some went home to unimaginable poverty, with no food, electricity, or water, and in some cases, no care."
But Nicola said the people welcomed them into their homes.
Some even borrowed money to provide Nicola and Vanessa with food.
They visited 12 homes and distributed parcels that the host families had put together, that included underwear, medicine, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
They also left families money to buy food.
Nicola said: "With very little sleep we worked ourselves into the ground to ensure that we did the maximum amount of good with the money that we took out there."
Nicola, who has been learning Russian, said that no descriptions or pictures could have prepared them for the shock of what they saw.
Nicola said: "The five days were emotionally draining. We certainly have a better understanding, but consequently we are more worried.
"The visit has assured us that our work is absolutely vital.
"We will be working even harder to help in every way we can."
Nicola and the group of host families are preparing for the youngsters' next visit, in September.
She said: "We have some exciting months coming up and I really can't wait.
"Everyone who helped out last year is on board and there are already a lot of things in place.
"We learned a lot from last year's trip, so hopefully this time it will be less hectic. But nonetheless we now know how important it will all be."
- Nicola is hoping for volunteers to help Meltax with the programme's transport. The group is also looking for ideas for entertainment and activities. Anyone who would like to help should contact Nicola on 01763 220651.