As children from Chernobyl enjoy spending four weeks by the seaside, Elizabeth Gomm speaks to the Blackpool host families who welcome the youngsters with open arms.
The fresh air of the Fylde coast is boosting the health of children from Belarus, which received approximately 70 per cent of the radioactive fallout from the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in neighbouring Ukraine, 32 years ago.
The children, second or even third generation now, may not know much about the accident that still impacts on their daily life and on their health, lowering their immune systems and reducing their resistance to illness and infection, making recovery more difficult.
Doctors say four weeks away from their contaminated homeland, eating clean food and breathing in fresh air, boosts their immune systems for up to two years.
It can also reduce the amount of radioactive caesium that builds up in their bodies.
The children, from a school in the small town of Vysokoye in Brest, stay with carefully selected host families and get together each day for a range of activities which give them a glimpse of life here.
One of their first visits was to St Kentigern’s Primary School in Newton Drive.
They took part in craft activities organised by learning support assistant, Caroline Lock, with the help of the young visitors’ English teacher, Svetlana Tur, who interpreted.
Deputy headteacher Julie Jones is hosting two of the visiting boys for the last two weeks of their holiday.
She is looking forward to them joining her family at their home in St Annes.
“I’ve got two boys myself and it is important to me that they have an understanding of how other children live.
“That not everyone has life that is as easy as their own.
“We have a lovely home and it will be nice to share it with them.”
Susan Bennett, from Woodplumpton, has been hosting Chernobyl Link children for a number of years and absolutely loves it.
She has visited Belarus and seen the conditions and knows how difficult it is for many families to survive in a country of hardship and extreme temperatures.
“It was a shock to see how poor people are there, nothing is ever wasted.
“I had two girls come to stay one year and when they opened my fridge they wanted to take a picture for their parents. They had never seen so much food.
“It broke my heart.”
This year she had four boys staying with her for the first two weeks, before two of them go on to stay with Mrs Jones.
A mum and grandmother, Susan takes the swell in her family in her stride.
She said they were no trouble and enjoyed playing together.
For the host families, and other members of the local Link of Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline, knowing they are changing the lives of children is reward enough for the hard work and efforts they put into fundraising and arranging the annual trip.