A group of Belarusian children who live in highly contaminated areas around Chernobyl have come to Mid Sussex to get their health up.
The Chernobyl exclusion zone is one of the world’s most radioactive areas and covers a large part of Ukraine and Belarus following the nuclear accident in 1986.
Friends of Chernobyl’s Children is a charity which funds and organises yearly visits for kids coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The charity states it targets those who are most in need of medical, social and educational attention – aged seven to 12.
Sheila Nash, co-ordinator for the Mid Sussex branch of Friends of Chernobyl’s Children, said:
“It’s so fulfilling to see the children grow in confidence and hopefully maintain their health.
“That’s one of our primary aims, to boost their immune systems and support their health because they’re living in such contaminated areas.”
Sheila, who lives in Horsted Keynes, has worked with the charity since 2001 when the Mid Sussex branch was set up.
Yesterday (Sunday, 9), a group of 15 children and two interpreters arrived at Gatwick Airport to begin their four week stay with different families in the area.
Sheila has visited Belarus with the charity ten times and said the conditions they live in are desperately sad.
“A lot of families are still living in terribly basic wooden houses without running water.
“When you imagine that in Belarus the winters are very harsh, they’ll often have snow on the ground for four months of the year and they’re going outside to draw any water that they need to go to the toilet at the bottom of the garden.
“Also, in the summer time they’re still growing all their fruit and vegetables in heavily contaminated soil.”
Sheila said during the children’s stay they will get the chance to go swimming, camping in Blacklands Farm, horse riding and visiting schools.