Chernobyl kids' welcome break

BLACKPOOL'S bracing sea air is always a tonic – but for one group of visitors, it could mean a whole lot more.

Over the last month, the town has played host to 10 young girls from Belarus in the former Soviet Union and they have certainly been making the most of their stay.

They were given a warm welcome last week on a visit to the City Learning Centre (CLC) on Grange Park to record a DVD about their experiences.

In 1986 Belarus was devastated by the Chernobyl disaster when a nuclear power station exploded in neighbouring Ukraine.

It is estimated that 60 per cent of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus and the effects of the disaster are still being felt today in high instances of cancer and other diseases.

Luckily for this group of 10 girls, a Blackpool-based group was on hand to offer them the chance of a lifetime.

The Chernobyl Children's Life Line group is a national group that has links all over the UK. The Blackpool group is ran by Thornton couple Jim and Barbara Heatley, who organised for the children to visit and stay for one month.

Mr Heatley, 63, of Kildare Avenue, said: "By bringing the children over and giving them clean air and good food it could boost their immune systems for up to two years.

"Local groups and businesses have been so kind, we have been to the Tower, Farmer Parr's, Moor Park Baths – you name it.

"The Bispham Sea Cadets have even let us use their base for a whole month and local families have offered the children places to stay.

"They have loved being at the City Learning Centre on Grange Park and using the video equipment – it is like a whole new world to them.

"The last month really has been the opportunity of a lifetime for them and we can't thank people enough for their kindness."

The girls, all aged between eight and 10, were falling over themselves to say which part of their trip they liked the best.

Anya Rylkova, eight, said: "The filming has been fun today, like being famous.

Learning

"We loved the zoo and the Tower and learning to swim."

Maryna Kislyak, nine, added: "We have liked England very much and the people have been very nice to us."

The City Learning Centre let the children experiment with making their own films and even allowed them to make a short DVD which staff gave them to take home home.

Ian Riley, manager at the CLC, said: "We were delighted to welcome the children today.

"We have all really enjoyed having them here."