Friends of Chernobyl’s Children (West Leicestershire) was established in 2007 to provide humanitarian aid to children suffering from the after effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Our primary objective is to provide relief to those children who are living in conditions of need, hardship, distress, poverty or sickness by providing care and welfare in the UK through our Family Hosting Programme.
The aim of the programme is to provide each child with a 4 week recuperative holiday in Leicestershire for five consecutive years in the belief that this brings cumulative health benefits and helps the children to develop and learn.
Our priority is to place each child in our care with a volunteer host family who is willing and able to provide a safe, stable and loving home for one month. Although many of our children do come from loving homes, some of them are living with very challenging social issues such as alcoholism, mental health issues and domestic violence on a daily basis. Living in a clean, warm home and feeling secure, safe and loved can be a new experience for some of the children in our care.
Malnutrition and dietary deficiencies are a common problem amongst the children and they suffer from a variety of health issues as a result of their poor diet. Our programme of care ensures that they get plenty of healthy, nutritious food throughout their stay so that worrying about their next meal is a problem they can forget, at least for a short time.
As part of our respite package, the charity provides each child with a year’s supply of multivitamins and any essential medication they require. We also organise basic healthcare checks to be carried out such as dental and optical treatment which is generally of a much lower standard in Belarus and often beyond the means of the children’s families.
Fresh air is an essential ingredient of our recuperative programme. As well as being exposed to the on-going radioactive contamination in their homeland, a lot of our city children live in high-rise blocks of flats in a heavily polluted industrial city where there is little space and few opportunities for them to run, play and have fun. During the winter months when the temperature is often below minus 20 degrees and the land is blanketed in deep snow, the children are regularly confined indoors for long periods.
To ensure that they get plenty of clean, fresh air whilst they are in the UK, we organise a wide variety of outdoor activities and days out for the kids to enjoy. The timetable we put together is designed to give the children the chance to enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood and also experience social, cultural and educational opportunities they would not have access to at home. Interacting with the local community and learning about our heritage and culture helps them to have a greater awareness of the wider world and to see that there is another way of life.
Making new friends, having fun, learning and laughing all help to boost the children’s confidence, social skills and self-esteem and we have seen with our own eyes what a difference just four weeks on our programme makes.
Hosting a child is a huge commitment and there is no doubt that it can be challenging. However, for many of our host families, it is extremely rewarding and can provide a life-changing experience for both host and child. Our programme also provides a lifeline for the children’s families back home in Belarus, many of whom are struggling to cope.
If you would like to become part of this amazing project and make a difference to a child in need, we would love to hear from you.