THIRTY years on from the Chernobyl disaster, families in the Ukraine are still suffering from the havoc it caused.
The catastrophic nuclear accident, which occurred on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere and long-term effects such as cancers are still being investigated.
The Chichester Link of Chernobyl Children’s Life Line was set up by chairman Jo Cullimore last year and four children were brought to the city for recuperation from the effects of the radiation and extreme poverty that haunts their lives.
Jo said: “This trip was very successful and the children returned to Ukraine full of colour and bouncing with energy.”
She then went to Borodyanka, Ukraine, in December to visit the children who had been to Chichester, as well as children she had hosted, or helped with, through the Portsmouth and Hayling Island Link and the Eastleigh Link, where she volunteered before setting up Chichester Link.
“It was an amazing trip, certainly not a holiday,” said Jo.
“It was reassuring the see the children and meet their families who put their trust in us to care for their children for the four weeks they spend in the UK.
“It is so important that we get more children to the UK for recuperation and with the support of the wonderful people of Chichester, we would like to make this happen again this year.
“Just breathing in our fresh air and eating plentiful and heathy food makes the difference. They build an immune system for the first time in years.
“We host the children in our homes at our own cost and so all money we raise goes directly to pay for flights, visas, insurance and so forth. We are lucky to have such wonderful attractions who provide us with free days out during the month, making it a fairytale for these children.”
The charity needs to raise £6,000 to bring ten children and a teacher over from Ukraine. Visit www.justgiving.com/Chernobyl-30-years-on to make a donation.
Jo said: “Four weeks in the UK adds in the region of two to three years to their life expectancy and gives them a better chance to get through the very harsh winters experienced in northern Ukraine.
“These families live in extreme poverty, with some houses built by the families and handed down through the generations. These are not built with any building knowledge and without foundations. They heat the homes with an open fire and snuggle up in one room. The toilet is, more often than not, a hole in the ground in the garden.
“For those who live in a flat, it consists of a single room, or for those very fortunate, two rooms. This is total rooms. Everything has dual purpose. These homes do have inside toilets and some may have a shower or a tiny bath. The kitchen, the size of a large cupboard, is very basic. These homes tend to have a heating system but it is very old and unreliable.
“Life is tough in northern Ukraine, even without factoring in the extremely high levels of radiation that they breathe in and eat from the crops grown in the contaminated soil. Cancer is rife because of this.”
One child Jo particularly wants to help this year is a 12-year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome. She met him while in Ukraine and hopes he will be given the go ahead to come to Chichester in September.
“When I asked if he had been on a recuperation trip, I was informed that because he has poor speech, it would be a problem. I cannot speak Ukrainian, so to me it is not a problem.”
Visit www.ccll.org.uk/chichester or email Jo at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07771 888660 for more information on the Chichester Link of Chernobyl Children’s Life Line.
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