'Such hospitality from folk who have so little'

Published on: 25 Aug 2017

A SMALL group from the Bristol Link of Chernobyl Children's Life Line travelled to Belarus earlier this summer to visit families and schools being supported by the charity. Downend's Jane and Alan Elkan were joined by Andy March (Bristol Link chair), Andy Smith, James Hyden, Bob Perkins and Charlie Walker on the self-funded trip.

Formed in 1992, CCLL exists to provide financial support and respite breaks for children whose lives continue to be affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Each summer, the Bristol link brings 16 children (aged around 11) from the town of Osipovichi and the nearby village of Protasevichi for a four-week trip to the UK.

Charlie, who lives in Downend, said: “I was not sure what to expect, I’ve travelled in Russia before and thought I knew some of the different living conditions the families might face. 

"I soon realised that many families live in desperate poverty, but make the best of everything they have. In very rural areas peasant life is usual, where children and the whole family farm their plot to survive. Outside toilets and a shed bathhouse are a reality. A single central heated oven is all that keeps a family warm in the winter where temperatures can drop to minus 30 degrees. It was easy to see why the parents are so thankful for this opportunity their child has to receive an immune boosting holiday and free health check-ups."

James, of Bromley Heath, said: "I was overwhelmed by the Belarusian hospitality. Such generosity is a sign of the families’ genuine appreciation of everything that CCLL has provided for their children, and indeed the impact on their community."

Many children live in houses similar to the ones pictured. Children play and learn just as they can in the UK, but here their health and economic prospects are among the lowest in the world.

The visiting party was able to take a vast amount of children's clothing, coats, hats etc due to the extra baggage allowance for the charity. 

A four-week trip to the UK can mean an additional two years’ life expectancy for the children who are lucky enough to visit. 

Charlie said: "In a country where there is very little obvious hope to look toward - the effects of the radiation will continue for many, many lifetimes - this charity is bringing immediate change and hope.”

There are opportunities to help Chernobyl Children's Life Line continue its work. If you are interested in becoming a host family in 2018; would like to be involved in fundraising; or

would like us to give your school, group, or workplace a presentation please contact chair.bristol@ccll.org.uk or visit www.ccll.org.uk/bristol

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