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20/09/2021

Chernobyl charity issues fresh appeal to Derry host families

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A local charity which brings children from a nuclear disaster zone to Derry for respite every year says has issued a fresh appal for local host families to come forward Every July children from Belarus come to the city to enjoy a four-week holiday, which health specialists say can up to five years to their life expectancy. Their trips are organised by Chernobyl Children International (CCI), a registered charity, through its Foyle and Inishowen branch. The children, many of whom are orphans, live close to the area which was affected by a nuclear explosion in 1986. CCI are now looking for hosts who will be able to welcome a child into their home next summer. Traditionally the children have stayed with local families but Emma Hunt, who has been involved with the group for 17 years, says the opportunity is open to everyone. “It doesn’t have to be family, older couples or single people can apply,” she explained. “As long as they pass the necessary checks and can provide a safe and secure home for the children we will be happy to have them.” The four-week Rest and Recuperation programme allows the children to spend time away from the radiation and have access to health care and recreational and educational trips. The children are so impoverished that some arrive for their four week stay with just the clothes they are wearing. Most of those who take part in the respite programme live on produce from small allotments grown in contaminated soil. However, Emma has seen first-hand the improvements to the children’s health as a result of their stay in Derry. “You can definitely notice the difference in the children after their time here,” said Ms Hunt. “Some of the hosts have said the children arrive with a yellow tinge to their skin, but by the time they leave that has gone. “Most of the children are coming from ‘Homes of Hope’ which are foster homes that were set up to take the children out of orphanages. “There would be about 10 children living with a foster parent whose job it is to look after them. “If a child grows up in an orphanage they don’t have access to education or proper health care and they move into an adult institution when they grow up. “This is the only chance many of these children get to go on holiday and to be a child, in the way that we would think of childhood.”   Funding   The cost of bringing each child to Ireland for a four week stay with a host family is £1,000 for travel to the airport, flights and translator fees, which the charity raise through a variety of fundraising events. “We are always fundraising and in particular we would ask local businesses to consider funding a child, or even holding a coffee morning to help us raise money,” said Ms Hunt. “The difference it makes to these children’s lives is unbelievable. “The Derry company ‘Computer Share’ hold an event every year where they invite the children down and give them clothes and gifts and they just can’t believe all this stuff is for them. “It’s like Christmas morning, they think they are in Disney Land. “The look on their faces is just unbelievable.” If you would like to host a child or sponsor a child please contact Emma Hunt on 07775855638 before the deadline of October 9.    

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