Friends of Chernobyl’s Children (FOCC) – Medway is an independent charity (Registration number: 1095997) based in Medway, Kent. Our aim is to support children from disadvantaged social backgrounds in areas of Belarus that continue to be affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. We do this by providing short recuperative care visits to the UK for a small group of children from the areas of Belarus (the villages surrounding the city of Mogilev) that are most affected by the lasting effects of radiation damage and poverty.
Our charity is consists of a coordinator, a chairperson, a treasurer, a secretary, our trustees and, of course, our host families and helpers. We operate under English Charity law with a strict code of governance that you can download by selecting this link: FOCC Medway Governance V4 – Mar 4 2020.
Everyone is a volunteer and no one is paid. This means that every penny we receive goes straight towards helping the children and their families.
All volunteers who spend time with the children during their visits and the host parents are DBS-checked and vetted by the charity.
FOCC Medway comes under the umbrella of Friends of Chernobyl’s Children GB national charity, along with 23 other groups around the UK. Each group is an independant charity; some smaller than FOCC Medway and some bigger (one even has two groups of children visit per year!). If there is not a group local to you and you are interested in starting a group, then please contact Linda and Tony – FOCC Medway’s coordinators – to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
The costs involved in getting the children to the UK – from passports to visas, flights to transport – and the costs involved in running the four week activity programme are high and increasing. Fundraising in the current economic climate is difficult, so we are always looking for new ways to raise money. If you are part of a company, school or group who would like to help with our fundraising, sponsor a child’s visit or an activity for the group, then please do contact Linda and Tony – FOCC Medway’s coordinators. We also appreciate offers of good quality children’s clothes.
The branch itself runs many fundraising events in Medway each year. Our Barn Dance and our Car Treasure Hunt are now firm annual favourites. We also run regular coffee mornings, quiz nights and Blingo Bingo nights. Find our upcoming events here.
We are also extremely grateful to the amazing people who fundraise or donate to us. Whether it is being sponsored to run a marathon; running a concert or bake sale; donating items for us to sell on ebay, raffle or for our children to take home; or providing an activity or day out for the children during their stay – we cannot thank you all enough.
If you feel this is something that you would like to help us with, then please see our fundraising pages and/or get in touch.
If you would like to sponsor one of our children, you can find out more here.
If you would like to make a monetary donation to FOCC Medway, you can do so here.
If you would like to make other donations to FOCC Medway, find out more here.