Chernobyl charity group is wound up after 16 years

Chernobyl children at Clark's shoe shop, Galashiels
Chernobyl children at Clark's shoe shop, Galashiels

A Borders charity set up 16 years ago to help children living near the scene of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster in Ukraine is being wound up.

Since 2001, youngsters from Belarus have visited the region annually for a month-long holiday away from contaminated countryside there, a break estimated to have increased their expected lifespans by two years.

Now, however, Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline’s Borders branch chairman Fraser Simm is stepping down, and as a result the charity has also come to an end.

The group was launched after a chance encounter in a street in Stow in 2001 between Mr Simm and co-founder Ian Anderson.

The latter showed Mr Simm a brochure describing the effects of the nuclear explosion on children living in neighbouring Belarus, and the pair decided to do whatever they could to help.

Mr Simm said: “Although Ian and I had valuable support from our wives, in 2001 we really had no idea what we were doing, but we received a grant from the charity’s HQ of £500 and £500 from the Polish club in Galashiels and we were on our way to raising £4,000 to support the first 10 children from Belarus.

“Since 2001, the link has hosted 110 children and raised £60,000.

“Many families offered to host the children more than once. In fact, several families have been involved for four or five years, and this generosity is at the heart of our efforts.”

The group hosted its last visit last year.