Chernobyl Childrenâ€™s Lifeline was founded in 1991 to help the victims of the Chernobyl disaster.
On 26th April 1986, at 1.23am technicians at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the Ukraine allowed the power in the fourth reactor to fall as part of a controlled experiment. To carry out their tests, they deactivated several major safety systems that would have shut down the reactor in case of accident.
The experiment went wrong. Two explosions blew the top off the reactor building and started a fire in the core which burned for several days. A cloud of deadly radio activity dispersed into the surrounding environment. This silent killer continued to pour from the damaged reactor for ten days.
Belarus, where the work of the charity is focussed, received 70% of the radioactive fallout. As a result, the thousands who are born every year go on to develop thyroid or bone cancer, and leukaemia. The ground was heavily contaminated and will continue to be for thousands of years. The people live with radiation all around them. They drink contaminated water and wash in it. What very little food there is in Belarus has a high chance of being contaminated.
Chernobyl Childrenâ€™s Lifeline has many branches (links as they are called) throughout the UK. Among the main aims of the charity are:
â€¢ To bring child victims of the disaster to the UK for recuperative breaks of one month
(over 46,000 have been brought over since 1992)
â€¢ To help children who are too sick to travel by providing chemotherapy medicines to Childrenâ€™s Cancer Hospitals in Minsk, Gomel and other regions
â€¢ Support with medicines and equipment: No1 Baby Home in Minsk and many other
It costs each link approximately Â£350 per child for a monthâ€™s stay in the UK. This does not sound much until you multiply it by the number of children each link brings over. 50 children is Â£17,500. Whilst the children are in the UK they have medical attention such as dental care and getting their eyes tested. Even that one monthâ€™s stay in the UK can make a phenomenal difference to a childâ€™s life.
The families that help the children fall into two categories:
â€¢ A family can host two children for either two or four weeks during the summer
â€¢ A buddy family, who may be unable to host, but can provide assistance to hosting
A hosting family gets no financial reward. The reward comes in seeing their children blossom during their stay in the UK. Host families are recommended to take children in pairs, so that they can relax together, talking in their own language. There is always advice on hand. An English speaking Belarusian leader comes with the group, and is on call 24 hours a day. There are experienced host families who can pass on tips and experiences.
Many links arrange group activities and outings, as the one in Edinburgh does. I first experienced contact with the charity when, as a member of City of Edinburgh Round Table, we sponsored a minibus trip for the children of the Edinburgh link to visit the Seabird Centre at North Berwick. After the event we received a personalised thank you card, signed by all of the children who went on the trip. That card remains one of my most treasured possessions to this day.
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