Chernobyl children's charity issues SOS: Can your family host a visit this summer?

May 08 2017

A CHARITY which offers children summer breaks in Bristol as respite from radiation caused by the world's worst nuclear disaster has put out an SOS after three host families dropped out.

A CHARITY which offers children summer breaks in Bristol as respite from radiation caused by the world's worst nuclear disaster has put out an SOS after three host families dropped out.

The Bristol link of the Chernobyl Children's Lifeline raises money for 16 children from Belarus to visit every summer.

The trips are more than just a jolly - the clean air and nourishing food here can add up to two years to their lives, which can be plagued by cancers and heart problems due to radiation caused by a nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986.

The charity had been delighted as they had recruited their quota of hosts for this summer and even had two additional families on standby in case of emergencies.

But now, due to circumstances beyond their control, the two spare families and one other host have had to pull out, leaving the charity desperate to recruit others.

Andy March, of Oldland Common, is the chairman of the Bristol Link and a national trustee. He said the charity needs to act quickly as time is of the essence: "We have only just found out and time is now tight. We need a host family to fill the gap for the second fortnight that the children are here. If we don't find another host family, potentially it means two boys won't be able to come. We don't know the exact ages of the boys yet but they will be around 11.

"There is a lot of support for hosts. We have seven families who, for whatever reason, can't host themselves but want to be involved. They are called 'Buddies' and will help out and take the children out for the day if a host family has a diary commitment they can't avoid. There are also two teachers travelling with the children who are English speakers who act as interpreters and they are available 24/7. Host families come from varying backgrounds but when we come together to look after the children, it's a lot of fun."

Alan Elkan, a charity member from Downend, said the children each spend a month here, with host families looking after the children for two-weeks.

"Two months ago we were ecstatic as we were in the wonderful position of having two spare host families. But since then we have had three of them drop out so we really need at least one more family to host two boys for two weeks from July 23 to August 6.

"We might have to cancel two children but we desperately don't want to."

Mr Elkan said the clock was ticking as there is a lot involved in approving new families.

"Unlike a lot of organisations which bring children over to the UK, we are a charity so have to go through a very rigorous process of vetting host families and this takes some time. I wouldn't want this to put anyone off because there are a lot of rewards involved. You get the joy of giving children from a real destitute country two weeks of fun, friendship, good food and hopefully good weather. Hosts get the pleasure of helping children who can't help themselves.

"Most of the children haven't necessarily got a mother or father and come over for health reasons. Some people say there are plenty of poor children in this country who need help but we say 'Yes, but they aren't suffering from radiation and aren't all going to suffer from cancer and die at the maximum age of 62'."

Here in the UK, the children will take part in activities ranging from sports to the arts and will go on coach trips to the seaside or countryside.

Mr Elkan said: "The children adapt very quickly from day one. They are very happy to be here doing things, getting new clothes and eating better food."

Mr March urged anyone who was interested to get in touch to find out more.

"If anyone wants to find out more before making a commitment, please visit our website and have a look at the gallery where we have photos of previous visits and you will get a good indication of the sort of things we get up to. If anyone wants to ring me to ask questions, I'm more than happy to answer them."

To get in touch with Andy March, please call him on 07812 159942. The website is www.ccll.org.uk/bristol