In 1991, five years after the worst nuclear accident in history when 400 times more radioactive material was released than by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the charity Chernobyl Children’s Life Line (CCLL) was founded.
Its aim was to bring children from the contaminated areas to the UK for four weeks’ respite from the contamination.
Fast forward over two decades and the charity is still needed every bit as much as it was in those early years.
Nearly 50,000 children have been brought over to the UK to stay with host families in the last 22 years.
Because of poverty, these are children who still live on land that remains heavily contaminated and they eat food grown on contaminated ground – and many go on to develop thyroid cancer, bone cancer and leukaemia as a direct consequence of their continuing exposure to Chernobyl’s fallout.
Doctors have stated again and again that giving these children access to just four weeks of clean, fresh air and good, uncontaminated food can add, on average, two years to their life expectancy. This is a very powerful incentive for the people who host and support the children when they are over here – not to mention the laughter and smiling faces of the youngsters.
While they are in the Borders, children take part in pre-arranged activities as well as seeing the sea for the first time.
Local dentists and opticians check their teeth and eyesight, providing free dental care or glasses if required. Giving of their time and their businesses’ money is very much appreciated by the charity, the children and the children’s families who, very importantly, support the charity back in Belarus.
Despite it being their first trip out of their country and away from their families for the first time, there are always far more applications from parents and schools than places available.
Consideration is always given to the most needy and, if last year is anything to go by, most of the children only had one parent living.
The Borders link of CCLL is now gearing up for the 2013 visit, with a four-week stay of eight children in July.
While CCLL is always looking for new host families and support people, the arrangements for July are now in place.
But if anyone would like to know more about the charity, or how to go about hosting or lending support in 2014, they can contact chairman Fraser Simm on 01578 730297 or email secretary Sarah Barton at Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline Scottish Borders Link CCLL@sarahbarton.co.uk.
While most arrangements for this year’s trip are in place, the charity needs additional funds as it costs upwards of £600 to bring each child to the Borders – and this year the costs for the charity is around £5,000.
So any help people can give (either directly or by fundraising themselves) will be gratefully received and the laughter and smiles on the faces of the children will, hopefully, be the reward for financial help.