Open your heart and your home

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Emma Hunt will depart for one of the most radioactive parts of the world this week when she travels to Belarus, Chernobyl with Chernobyl Children’s Aid North West.

Derry barmaid Emma, is to spend three weeks in Belarus. Ahead of her departure she has made an appeal to families across the North West to; “Open their hearts and homes to a child for a few weeks this summer.”

Ms. Hunt has already been welcoming two sisters from Belarus into her home for nine years.

It is 25 years from the nuclear disaster that ruined hundreds of thousands of lives and contaminated entire regions for generations to come. The trip will see a team of volunteers from the Northwest travel on an aid mission to the affected region. Local charity, Chernobyl Children’s Aid, will then bring 60 children from Belarus to the North West this July. Studies have shown that each week away from the nuclear contaminated region adds, on average, one year to their lifespan.

In order to become “more involved in the work of the charity” and “in order to meet the extended family of Zolina sisters, Nuala 16 and Ulylanna, 9,” she has decided the time is right to travel there.

So close are the close ties, Nuala and Ulylann consider Emma their Irish sister and Nuala’s mother, Mary Hunt their Irish grandmother.

In order to raise money for the charity and the work they do in Belarus, Emma has been hard at work fundraising. Last month she organised a charity football game with the Derry city legends which collected £1,200.

Ms. Hunt said: “I’d like to thank all the people who participated in the charity match and everyone who so generously sponsored and supported the players. The funds raised will directly benefit the children of Belarus.”

Emma singled out the work of Derry City supporters at The Crawford Square Social Club. “Those fans have been amazing. We hope to use some of the money they raised to build washrooms in villages as close to 20 kms to the exploded reactor. Access to clean, running water is a major problem for people living there. There is simply no piped water supplies.

“Only through the help and support of people can Chernobyl Children’s Aid offer humanitarian and medical aid to orphanages, local organisations, schools and villages in Belarus, as well as the recuperative holidays in the North West. All the money we raise goes directly to the children and families in Belarus. There is no money spent on administration, it is all spent on airfares to bring children here and supplies for their familys.

“I will stay with my Belarusian family, that is the family of the children who visit me, which I am meeting for the first time. While there I will travel in the Gomel region with the director of the charity Dominic Bradley to villages, schools and orphanages giving aid and meet the new children that will visit the North West this year. “Part of the money raised will help cover the cost of the children’s visit, the rest will be used to improve their facilities and health in any way we can.”

Ms. Hunt added: “Anyone who would like further information, to get involved, organisation an event or make a donation of any sort, weather its clothing, raffle prizes, toys, “nothing is refused we would gratefully accept.”

In addition to her fundraising efforts Ms. Hunt has asked for volunteer families in the North West to welcome a child from Belarus into their home this summer.

“We find it more important to give the children a few happy memories as well as provide them with material goods at home. The children themselves are their own reward, they aren’t into material belongings they are looking for love and hugs. They really benefit so much from a trip to Ireland.”

Ms. Hunt has organised a few fundraisers including a sponsored spin class on 12th March and a charity quiz in the Derry City Social Club on 31st March, in order to raise money for the projects work in Belarus.

Anyone interested in becoming a host family can contact her on 07775855638.