On June 23, a group of children will arrive in Derry from Belarus.
For the children involved, “it’s like coming to Disneyland,” says Emma Hunt, who is Secretary of the Chernobyl Children International Foyle & Inishowen branch.
“They absolutely love their time here,” says Emma, who has been involved with the charity for a number of years.
“We have 12 children staying with host families in the North West and this period of time when the children come here is the event we work towards all year.”
The children come to Ireland for a four week break away from the radiation still present since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster thirty one years ago. Doctors believe the health benefits of the month-long holiday can extend the children’s life expectancy by up to two years.
The annual trip has been organised by a group of volunteering host local families, part of Chernobyl Children International, and will see the youngsters stay with Derry and Inishowen people in a bid to boost their health.
The visits are paid for by local fundraising and all activities are staffed by unpaid volunteers.
The visits would not be possible without the efforts of those who fundraise, and those local businesses who support them, says Emma.
“Our fundraising is really important and we have a few events coming up locally,” she adds.
“Tomorrow (Saturday) the group will have a stall at the Smart Mums Market at the Waterfoot Hotel and on Monday June 19 the group will have a raffle table at Rathmór shopping centre.”
The group have received many second hand clothes and toys from the community, and are now desperately trying to collect shoes, booster car seats and suitcases as the children who come here come with very little.
“They have absolutely nothing, and they’re so grateful for even the smallest thing that they’re given here,” says Emma.
“A lot of the children coming here this year are foster children. In some cases their parents are dead, in other cases they have been taken away from their parents. The time they get to spend with each other while they are here, as well as with the host families, is so good for them.”
Those who have anything they may be able to donate for the children should contact the Facebook page Chernobyl Children International Foyle & Inishowen branch or contact María Navarro (Group Leader) on 07925326083 or Emma Hunt (Secretary) on 07775855638.