Underprivileged children from a radiation ravaged former Soviet state were today enjoying the invigorating powers of Skegness’s bracing sea air as part of a health-improving charity visit.
About 25 youngsters from Mogilev in Belarus, which still suffers from the Chernobyl disaster’s nuclear fallout, were ‘absolutely loving’ their first ever glimpse of the sea.
“They’ve been in the water once and can’t wait to go back - they absolutely love it,” said Suzy Smith, from one of the families hosting the young visitors.
“They don’t want to move from the beach.”
The outing has been organised by the Hucknall branch of The Friends of Chernobyl’s Children charity as part of a month-long trip to boost the young visitors’ immune systems, left vulnerable by the high levels of radiation back home.
Many of the city’s residents develop cancer and suffer thyroid problems as a result of the 1986 power station explosion more than 200 miles away in neighbouring Ukraine.
But the charity’s branch chairman David Palmer says the children who take part in the foreign excursions are 40 per cent healthier as a result.
“I think the satisfaction is from knowing that they had a good time and their health has improved and will continue to improve,” he said
During their stay the children enjoyed all the treats of a traditional day at the seaside as part of a fun-packed four weeks of excursions including horse riding, ice skating and visits to a country park.
“Just fun things they don’t have a chance to do at home,” Suzy added.
“We bring them over for health reasons to boost their immune system and to give them fun and laughter and lots of fresh air.”
The children visit their host families once every 12 months over a five year cycle before puberty, while they are still developing and most susceptible to the radiation.
Natasha Malayenko, who teaches the children English while they are in Belarus, says their hosts are like a second family to them.
“The kids adore their host families, sometime when we come back we feel lonely and always look forward to coming again,” she said.
“The main thing is the chance to live a longer, healthier life.”
Natasha also says the trip improves her pupils’ English skills and teaches them about foreign cultures.
David, who has been with the charity for 12 years, explained one girl who has visited for a number of years is now looking to become an English teacher and help organise other visits.
“It comes full circle,” he said.
The charity’s Hucknall branch, which is one of 31 across the country, must raise £14,000 a year to host its guests.
John Lewis, the department store, has supported the cause, as several of its staff, including Suzy have become host families.
“We like to support our staff with any charity causes they are interested in,” said Louise Law, a PR and marketing officer for the company.
Magilov was one of the cities worst affected by Chernobyl.
Some radiologists claim this was because the Soviet government ‘seeded’ clouds to make it rain before the radiation spread over the cities of Moscow and St Petersberg.
To learn more about the charity visit here