Family answers charity's Voice SOS call

Published on: 30 May 2017

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A FAMILY has come forward to offer to put up two boys from radiation-hit Chernobyl after reading a charity's desperate plea in Downend Voice.

Every year the Bristol link of the Chernobyl Children's Lifeline raises money for 16 children from Belarus to visit during the summer.

The clean air, good weather and healthy food can add an incredible two years to their life expectancy.

The children come to Bristol for a month, with host families each offering a home for two children for two or four weeks.

Everything was going well - the charity had recruited their quota of hosts for this year and even had two additional families on standby should anyone have to pull out.

But, due to circumstances beyond the hosts' control, the two spare families and one host family had to cancel, leaving a question mark on whether two boys, believed to be aged 11, could still visit the UK.

But thanks to the front page story in May's Downend Voice, a family from Mangotsfield has come forward to save the day.

Alan Elkan, a charity member from Downend, said it was a huge relief that no children had to be let down.

"We're absolutely delighted that as a result of Downend Voice we now have a replacement family so we will still be able to receive 16 children. It could have been 14 children instead, so this is great news."

Alan said it's not too late for other families to come forward as standby hosts in July and/or August.

He said: "We originally had 18 families, with two as spares. All of a sudden the two standby families and one established family had to pull out. We're just hoping another family doesn't pull out as we don't have any spare families. So although we now have a full complement of families, we would still be glad for any others to come forward just in case."

The Chernobyl disaster, in April 1986, was started by a failed experiment which caused a nuclear power plant to blow up.

During the accident, 31 people died but the long-term effects, including cancer, weakened immune system and deformities, exist to this day.

Incredibly, there is still a permanent 30km exclusion zone surrounding the stricken reactor. 

The charity Chernobyl Children’s Life Line was formed with the aim of helping the children affected by offering them some relief from the relentless bombardment of radiation. 

A month’s respite holiday in the UK helps to boost their immune system by providing plenty of nourishing, uncontaminated food and clean fresh air.

Around 500,000 children in Belarus are classified as at ‘high risk’ by the World Health Organisation. 

Alan said: "At the end of a month here, with good weather, good food and no stress, caesium (a radioactive component which causes damage to the body) is reduced by about 66 per cent. 

"A lot of the children come from poor families who might not be able to afford fruit and vegetables, although the produce grown there isn't as healthy as our fruit and veg because the ground there is contaminated.

"Eating as much fruit, fruit pulp, fruit juices and vegetables as possible while in the UK is what really helps them. They can take the benefits with them throughout their cold winter as it reduces colds and flu and has been proven to add another two years to their lives."

There is plenty of support for host families including access to interpreters and organised day trips.

Any families who would like to find out more about hosting should call Andy March,  chairman of the Bristol Link and national trustee, on 07812 159942. You can also find more information by visiting www.ccll.org.uk/bristol

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