Although Chernobyl is actually in the Ukraine, because of the direction of the wind on 26th April 1986, Belarus to the north, bore the brunt of the immediate and massive fallout. Land is still heavily contaminated and the medical effects are ongoing. This coupled with high levels of poverty and the additional serious pollution from the very heavy industry carried out in and around the city, makes life for much of the population harsh and unrelenting.
There are still many people living in hostels, whole families sometimes existing in a single room with a grim shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, or in run-down Soviet style blocks of small flats. Considerable numbers are even now housed in wooden dwellings with no running water or indoor sanitation. With very low minus temperatures throughout winter and snow on the ground for up to 4 months of the year, life isn’t easy.
Each year we bring a group of twelve children, aged between 7-12 years, to spend a month in the Woking area for up to 5 consecutive years. The aim is to provide the children with plenty of healthy food, fresh air and good fun, in the hope that this will support their immune systems and help to sustain their health.
They are each placed with local host families who offer the children a comfy bed and a loving home during the evenings and weekends. We run a full and varied activity programme each weekday with fun activities that most of our Belarusian children seldom have the chance to experience. The children return home with a bag full of clothing, shoes, vitamins and gifts.
Over the years, strong bonds form between the host families here and the natural families back in Mogilev and these links are encouraged. The rewards of making a true difference to the life of a needy child from Belarus by welcoming them into your home and family are immense.