The children of Chernobyl

“More than seven million of our fellow human beings are still suffering, every day, as a result of what happened... years ago. The legacy of Chernobyl will be with us, and our descendants, for generations to come.”

Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General - April 2000

You may have seen HBO’s historical drama series Chernobyl which aired last month on Sky – it is now the highest-rated TV show of all time (according to a recent IMDB poll) and has reminded many about a disaster that should never be forgotten.

In April 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the USSR became one of the world’s worst man-made catastrophes. 190 tonnes of highly radioactive waste material was released into the atmosphere, exposing the people of Chernobyl to radioactivity 90 times greater than that from the explosion of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

30 years later, I read about the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children charity through a local publication and became involved soon after. My family hosted 7-year old Diana for a month in June 2017 - she arrived in just the clothes she stood up in, with a broken compact mirror, hairbrush and small soft toy in a plastic bag. Diana had never travelled further than the 15km bus ride to school and could only communicate with us through Google Translate. Fast-forward 3 years and Diana loves her annual visit to our home (she will come for a total of four years), with trips organised through the charity including a seaside residential, fun days out, medical and dental care. Each child goes home with a huge bag of provisions – warm winter clothing, shoes and essentials.

All the children in the scheme have been identified as the most needy – in Diana’s case, she lives with her mum and grandma (who has dementia) in a tiny wooden house with no running water. They grow vegetables to pickle which help see them through the tough winter. There is evidence that a month of respite care can have significant benefits on the children’s overall quality of life, happiness, health and well-being. One such ‘happy ending’ is Anya, who started with the scheme aged 7 and now comes over to help with the little ones in between studying at university. Her future is bright thanks to the support of her English ‘host’ family.

33 years on, and there are still many people living with the fallout from the disaster and they will do so for generation after generation to come.

To find out more about the charity and the many ways in which you can support the children, please visit their website.

Susie Caney is an account executive in our East Midlands office. Recently we found out that she is involved in the charity Friends of Chernobyl. It’s such a great cause and we will be working with Susie to donate provisions for the visiting children to bring back with them to Russia. If there is anything you can donate such as; packets of veg seeds, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, paracetamol, sudocrem, Vaseline, vicks vapour rub, coffee, tea, hot choc etc, please email Susie to find out how you can help.