The Nottingham link is the oldest in the UK and offers much needed respite and recuperative visits for children from Belarus and Ukraine who are still suffering from the after effects of the Chernobyl disaster that happened in 1986. Social deprivation and illness affects children who are vetted locally as the most in need of a break. At any one time there are around 200 children on the list that are flagged to meet the criteria to warrant a visit to the UK. The month long visit to the UK in the summer gives children the opportunity to boost their immune systems and receive dental and optical care and much needed health benefits ahead of puberty. It also gives their bodies a much needed rest from the constant radiation dosage that they receive all the time at home.
Despite being outwith the radiation exclusion zone, there are still very high levels of radiation contaminating the soil which they grow their vegetables in and which is evident in the water table from which they drink.
The visits help to raise aspirations for children who have had a real struggle in their lives and demonstrates that people care beyond their local communities.
The local communities where the children are based in Nottinghamshire rally to support providing much needed clothing, toiletries and inviting children to their homes to stay for the duration of the visit. The host families are DBS checked and have home visits to ensure suitability and vet the families involved.
We've found that there has been a very positive ripple affect from these visits in local communities as it is very humbling and grounding to look after children who have so little and who struggle financially and physically. The charitable activities surrounding these visits in providing support is a key focus and generates much interest in the community. Schools, opticians and dentists all get involved with supporting this initiative and there are then multiple activities which bring people together in a positive away, providing support which is good for general well being and empowering individuals to make a positive difference to the lives of others. This is particularly important with the children who spend time with the youngsters from the Chernobyl region who then share their experiences with contemporaries at school and is important in the development of social responsibility for the young generation.
It costs around £1,000 to bring a child from the Ukraine or Belarus to Nottingham. This pays for the flights, visas (which are expensive), also passports for the children and often the journeys for them to travel to Minsk. The link provides some clothes and also pays for the leader, usually a school teacher or other responsible adult, who accompanies them on the trip and stays for the duration. The link buys vitamins for the children and pays for any necessary dental or optical treatment that may be needed. We ensure that each child sees a dentist and optician as a compulsory part of their visit. Often the children have had no dental care to date so this is a fairly challenging but important part of providing essential care and treatments if necessary. During last year's visit every child received fillings and some had several. Two children required glasses. Many of the children have autoimmune deficiencies and eyesight problems stemming from the impact of the radiation in the Chernobyl region.
We are aiming to bring 6 children to Nottingham for next summer's visit and therefore are looking to raise £6,000 for the children. Any other funding we raise will go towards providing activities and support for the children during the stay. This is often seen as a trip of a lifetime. Most children have never seen the sea, one boy this year had never been in a swimming pool. These visits open their eyes to many different and hopefully enjoyable experiences for them building their resilience and raising their aspirations for the future.