Each year in mid-June to mid-July, our group now brings 15 children and two interpreters to the UK for four weeks. We are based in Cliffe (Medway, Kent), where we use the Cliffe Community Church as our daily base during the children’s visit. Whilst in the UK, the children live with Medway-based volunteer host families and they attend activities organised by the charity during the week. Each child can come for up to four consecutive years, often staying with the same host family throughout, allowing amazing and long-lasting bonds to build.
Aged between 7 and 12-years-old, the children come from the rural areas outside of the city of Mogilev in Belarus, one of the areas that was worst affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The charity targets particularly needy children: children from large families, from single-parent families, in foster care, living in extreme poverty and with poor general health. Sometimes these children are living in single rooms, without basic sanitation and running water and because their parents work long hours they may often be alone at home and/or carers for younger siblings. The food that they eat is often home-grown in the contaminated soils and the milk they buy is from cows grazed on radiated grass. For these children and their families, there is no escaping the poverty or the contamination.
How does coming to the UK help?
A month in the UK helps these children in so many ways. A month of fresh air and uncontaminated and nutritious food boosts their weakened immune systems. Health checks and treatments with GPs, dentists and opticians provide the basic remedies that they cannot access or afford at home (these medical visits are not funded by the NHS). A month of fun and educational activities allows the children to rest and enjoy being children, providing a break from their harsh daily lives. Their education and in particular their English language skills are boosted, improving their future prospects.
During their stay the children will get involved in many activities: from swimming to trips to the park, from horse riding to trips on the train to the beach, from walks and activities with country park wardens to visits to local schools. At the end of their stay, the children return home to Belarus with a years’ supply of vitamins, clothes, shoes, supplies for themselves and their family, and many, many happy memories. Our aim is to both boost and maintain the children’s immune systems and health.