Chernobyl youngsters take to boats

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CHILDREN from a region which bears the scars of a nuclear disaster have arrived for a month of fun in the UK.

A group of 14 Belarusian children aged nine to 13 are here on a visit organised by the charity Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline.

Chidren from the Chernobyl area of Russian who are on a break trip to the UK enjoy a day out at Gunwharf and a session on the miniature boats. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142196-1)

Chidren from the Chernobyl area of Russian who are on a break trip to the UK enjoy a day out at Gunwharf and a session on the miniature boats. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142196-1)

A highlight of their stay has been a visit to the MiniPort at Gunwharf Quays where they drove boats around a pond.

MiniPort Portsmouth managing director David Ritchie said the youngsters enjoyed their visit.

He said: ‘I don’t think they have any kids’ activities like this at all where they live – it must be pretty basic.

‘It’s a real window into another world for them.

‘It’s such a pleasure seeing them all happy driving around the pool.’

The children are from Asipovichy, an industrial town in the middle of the eastern European country.

The area remains badly hit by nuclear fallout from the explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986.

Trust Havant and Waterlooville link chairwoman Natalie Lann, 22, said: ‘Everything they eat, drink and breathe is potentially poisonous.’

Ms Lann, 22, of North End, said it was estimated that a 28-day stay in Britain would add two years to the youngsters’ lives.

She said: ‘Staying here greatly reduces their chance of getting cancer, especially thyroid cancer, which they’re particularly vulnerable to when they’re going through puberty.’

‘Their visit can make a great difference, and they’re all so grateful for the opportunity.’

Ms Lann said the children were staying with host families in Portsmouth and Havant. She said the youngsters would also take part in trips to museums, the beach as well as Canoe Lake in Southsea for crabbing.

Ms Lann said: ‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip for them.

Everyone is so happy when they get the news that they can come over.

‘They’re still 800,000 children in Belarus who we need to get over here.’

To get involved in the charity or to donate, visit chernobylchildrenstrust.ie