Appeal made for more families to help host Chernobyl children

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A VOLUNTEER who hosts children from Chernobyl each summer is appealing for more families from the Borders to step forward.

Donna Perry took eight Belarusian girls, aged between nine and 12, on a boat trip to the Farne Island followed by fish and chips in the town on Sunday towards the end of this year’s month-long visit.

A shortage of host families, however, restricted the size of the visiting group this year. “It’s one of the smallest groups we have had,” said Donna. “We need more volunteers so that we can welcome more children. It makes a big difference to their lives.”

Donna is a member of the Borders branch of the national Chernobyl Children’s Lifline charity. Established in 1991, it raises money and support the children of Belarus and Ukraine, whose lives will be forever affected by the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

“I first heard about the charity when I saw a piece in the Advertiser about five years ago,” Donna explained.

“It took me nearly a year to pluck up the courage to volunteer myself, but it has well worth it. It is so valuable for the children. A month over here in the clean air can expand their lifespan by two years.

“A lot of the children miss school in Belarus because they are often ill. But the organisers at their end have told us children who spend a summer month here in the Borders often end up going to school for the whole year from August onwards.

“They also get a trip to the dentist and the optician when they are here. They tend to have bad teeth and poor eyesight because of the contamination.”

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