Charity seeks Derbyshire Dales families to host Chernobyl children

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A charity which has been bringing children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on health breaks to the Derbyshire Dales for more than 25 years is appealing for local families to help out as hosts this summer.

The Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline allows youngsters from Ukraine and Belarus to enjoy a month of fun activities which helps their bodies to recover from the effects of irradiated soil and drinking water at home.

Chris Broome, who chairs the Bonsall and Derbyshire Dales branch of the charity, said: “It’s been 33 years since the disaster. It’s a long time ago in some respects, and perhaps younger families don’t relate to it as easily as those who are old enough to remember it clearly.

“Maybe that makes it a bit harder to appreciate the need for what the charity is doing, but there will be at least another two generations of children who need our help.”

He added: “The fact that there is still a lot of radiation in their environment isn’t always appreciated. There are still children eating contaminated food.

“I go there every year and I can still see the ongoing effects. They need to come here to recuperate.”

This year, the Bonsall group will welcome at least six children from Belarus from July 13 to August 10, although that number could grow with more host families.

Typically, children are hosted in pairs of boys or girls, for two to four weeks depending on what the host’s household can accommodate.

Chris said: “Without our host families none of it is possible. For the last couple of years we have only been able to bring small numbers of children over but we would like to do more.

“At the moment we have got about three families, and we need about three more, plus a reserve in case there is any problem later on.

He added: “Host families get a huge sense of satisfaction from helping these children, knowing that you’re helping them to live longer and healthier lives.

“If you have children at home already, it can also be rewarding to introduce them to others from a different background and culture.

“Although most of the children won’t speak fluent English, they will understand enough to communicate in most situations, and host families often build up lasting relationships now that they can stay in touch online.”

The Belarusian visitors will have a busy programme of activities during their stay, and host families can get involved as much or as little as they wish – but there are some minimum requirements.

Chris said: “We normally look for homes within about ten miles of Bonsall or Matlock to make the logistics manageable. We have outings every other day, and it’s often a case of being able to get the children to a minibus pick-up point.

“The rest of the time the will be their hosts. They can’t be left alone at any point but we also have support families who can help manage things, because we know hosts will often have busy lives of their own.

“Everyone involved has to pass police background checks, and someone from the charity will come and meet you to talk it all over and address any possible concerns.”

For more information, write to c-broome@sky.com.